USA TODAY Sports Weekly

TOP FIVE PROSPECTS

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Ex­cerpted from Base­bal­lHQ.com’s 2016 Mi­nor League Base­ball An­a­lyst. To or­der: base­bal­lhq.com/mlba16.

1. Alex Reyes, RHP: One of the best pitch­ing prospects in base­ball, Reyes will miss the first 50 games of 2016 for test­ing pos­i­tive for a drug of abuse. He fea­tures a 96- to 97-mph fast­ball that tops out at 102 mph; a hard 12-to-6 curve­ball and an im­proved changeup. His me­chan­ics have been smoothed out, and the 21-year-old struck out 13.4 bat­ters per nine in­nings in 2015. Once he re­turns, he will re­port to Class AAA Mem­phis and should make his big-league de­but in 2016.

2. Mag­neuris Sierra, OF: Sierra strug­gled as a 19-year-old in full-sea­son Class A but re­bounded nicely when de­moted to a short-sea­son af­fil­i­ate. He pos­sesses a quick, left-handed stroke, though break­ing pitches down in the zone give him fits. He has above-av­er­age speed (19 stolen bases) but doesn’t pro­ject to have more than av­er­age power. Sierra should stick as a cen­ter fielder, and he’ll give Class A an­other try in 2016.

With a fourpitch mix, Flaherty, 20, was lights-out in the low-A Mid­west League with a 2.84 ERA. He fills up the strike zone and has easy ath­leti­cism and re­peat­able me­chan­ics, but some scouts won­der whether his longterm pro­jec­tion is any­thing higher than a middle-ro­ta­tion starter.

4. Luke Weaver, RHP: He has a 90- to 93-mph fast­ball, keeps the ball down in the zone and gets late ac­tion from a high three­quar­ters arm slot. With good com­mand (19 walks in 1051⁄ in­nings at high-Class A in 2015), Weaver will get a shot a Class AA.

5. Marco Gon­za­les, LHP: An­other four-pitch pitcher, Gon­za­les has a fluid de­liv­ery that leads to good com­mand. Though his fast­ball lacks pre­mium ve­loc­ity (88-92 mph), he lo­cates it well and pairs it with a good changeup that he throws in any count. His curve­ball is more in­con­sis­tent. The 23-year-old strug­gled at Class AAA in 2015 (5.45 ERA), though he will have a shot to make the Car­di­nals ro­ta­tion.

Rob Gor­don

 ??  ?? 3. Jack Flaherty, RHP:
3. Jack Flaherty, RHP:

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