There's no better place to start that discussion than at the top. The top four prospects separated themselves a bit among the scouts polled for the rankings. Jurickson Profar, Dylan Bundy, Oscar Taveras and Wil Myers were the clear choices for the 2013 prospect version of Mount Rushmore. The overall tally at the top was close, but more than 70 percent of those polled picked the Rangers shortstop as their choice for No. 1.
"What I've seen is quite impressive," Rangers manager Ron Washington said. "The game of baseball does not scare him, and that's a tough attribute for a young kid to already have, and he certainly has it. The game doesn't scare him, and because the game doesn't scare him, that means he won't be taken aback by adversity, because [this game is] full of adversity, and if you can't handle adversity, then this game will eat you up.
"I don't think the game will eat him up, especially how he feels about the game of baseball, and experienced players -- not only players but coaching staff that he will have around -- we will not let him fail. He's quite an impressive kid."
Bundy received 12.5 percent of the first-place votes, with Taveras getting two nods for the top spot and Myers one.
After that quartet, arguments could be made about any of the 96 on the list, which deserving prospects were left off or which teams' systems were unfairly underrepresented. The whole process, remember, is subjective, so if it doesn't stir strong opinions, something has gone wrong.
To be eligible for the Top 100, a player must have rookie eligibility. To qualify for rookie status, a player must not have exceeded 130 at-bats or 50 innings pitched in the Major Leagues or accumulated more than 45 days on the active roster of a Major League club(s) during the 25-player-limit period, excluding time on the disabled list or in military service.
Such international signees as Hyun-Jin Ryu of the Dodgers, in case you were wondering, were not considered. Prospect Watch follows the guidelines laid out by the new Collective Bargaining Agreement: Players who are at least 23 years old and played in leagues deemed to be professional (Japan, Korea, Taiwan, Cuba) are not eligible.
With those requirements in mind, each scout was asked to anonymously provide his own top 50. An AP poll-type format was used. If, say, a scout put Profar in the top spot, he would get 50 points; the second prospect gets 49 points, and so on, down to one point for the 50th prospect on each list. The more scouts involved, the more thorough the list, but there's no avoiding having some opinion form the overall rankings.
Four of the first 10 from the 2012 Top 100 are now big leaguers. The Nos. 2 and 3 prospects, Bryce Harper and Mike Trout, were the National League and American League Rookies of the Year, respectively. Of the others who received ROY votes in 2012, several weren't in the Top 100, but Jarrod Parker was No. 26 at the start of the year. In the NL, Yonder Alonso (No. 39) and Wilin Rosario (No. 63) received ROY votes. A total of 28 players from last year's list are no longer eligible due to their loss of rookie status.
Whereas those were the "graduates," others were "dropouts" for such reasons as injury and poor performance. In total, there are 46 new names in this year's Top 100 that weren't in the 2012 preseason rankings.
Handing out grades
For the first time, there are scouting reports with each player on Prospect Watch. Players are given present and future grades on a 2-8 scale -- 2-3 is well below average, 4 is below average, 5 is average, 6 is above average, 7-8 is plus -- for each individual tool, along with an overall grade. Obviously subjective, perhaps the most important grade is the future overall grade -- this number signifies what each player will ultimately be in the big leagues.
A future "7" is a player who could develop into a perennial All-Star. There are only 10 future 7s on the list. Five of them are right-handers: Bundy, Taijuan Walker, Jose Fernandez, Zack Wheeler and Gerrit Cole. There's one lefty in Tyler Skaggs, three shortstops (Profar, Francisco Lindor, Javier Baez) and one outfielder (Taveras).
Giving 100 points to the team with the No. 1 prospect, 99 to the team with No. 2 and on down, below are the top 10 teams in terms of "prospect points."
Every team has at least one player in the Top 100. Four have just one: the White Sox, Angels, Brewers and Braves. Five teams sat atop the standings with six players apiece, meaning those five organizations (Red Sox, Marlins, Twins, Cardinals and Rangers) are responsible for 30 percent of the Top 100. The Marlins' placement in this category comes largely as a result of various trades, with three of the six coming from the big offseason deal with the Blue Jays.
Having large representation on the list doesn't necessarily mean that an organization has the best farm system. Presence on the Top 100 list doesn't speak to depth in a system or where talent is on the organizational ladder. But what if a weighted score was devised so as to determine which system has the most impact or elite talent? After giving 100 points to the team with the No. 1 prospect, 99 to No. 2 and on down, it turns out it wasn't the teams with the six names on the list that rank at the top.
For the second straight year, the Mariners sit atop the "prospect points" standings, though they have five Top 100 players on the list. Their quintet gave them 351 prospect points, with Walker, Danny Hultzen and Mike Zunino all falling in the top 25. If their rumored Justin Upton deal had gone through, they would have taken a serious tumble. The Cardinals and their six prospects were second, with 340 points. The Rays (310), Twins (295) and Marlins (281) round out the top five. The Red Sox and their six prospects finished eighth, with 255 points, and the Rangers were 10th (229).
As has become customary, pitching dominates the list. Teams are always working to develop their own arms, and this list reflects that, keeping in mind that more can go wrong with a pitching prospect's climb to the big leagues than it can with others.
A year ago, MLB.com's first Top 100 list (it used to be just a Top 50) included 48 pitchers. This year was about the same, with 47 landing on the list. Thirty-seven are of the right-handed variety. The rest of the breakdown looks like this: 25 outfielders, 14 shortstops, six third basemen, five catchers, a pair of second basemen and just one first baseman.
Feeling the Draft
Whether it's a bias of the list's creator or just the way the Minors looks right now can be debated, but there's no question that the Top 100 is once again very Draft-heavy.
A total of 76 players on the list came to the pro game via the Draft. Perhaps a sign of broadening horizons, that's down three from a year ago. The 2011 Draft has the most representation, with 23 players from that class. The 2010 Draft comes in second, with 20. Last year's Draft has 13 players, and the Draft class of 2009 is right behind 2012, with a dozen reps.
Not surprisingly, a majority of draftees on this year's list are former first-round picks. A total of 42 come from the first round proper, but fans who worry about not having a pick in the first round should take some comfort. Ten players were supplemental first-round picks, six were second rounders, and there are three each from the third and fourth rounds. Although there are two No. 1 picks -- Gerrit Cole and Carlos Correa -- there's also a No. 547 (Allen Webster), a No. 571 (Adam Eaton) and a No. 1,156 (Jarred Cosart).
Among the 24 international non-drafted free agents on the list, a number of countries are represented -- eight, to be exact. The Dominican Republic, not surprisingly, tops the list, with nine players in the Top 100. Venezuela and Cuba are next, with each landing four players on the list. Curacao and Colombia are next, with two apiece. Puerto Rico is often counted as international, but not here, as Correa came via the Draft. Lindor was born in Puerto Rico as well, and Fernandez was born in Cuba, but both attended high school in Florida. And a shout-out should go to Canadian James Paxton as well.