Everyone who follows prospects has their own rankings. Most lists involve the top-10 prospects within an organization. Others will rank by position. Here's how we do things here.
The following is list of the top-10 potential leadoff hitters in the minor leagues. Players are ranked both on their ability as a prospect but also their potential to become a leadoff hitter at the major league level.
For instance, Wil Myers is one of the best hitting prospects in basbeall, but he won't appear on this list because he doesn't profile as a leadoff hitter. You get the idea.
If his bat reaches it's full potential, Gose would be near the top of this list. I just don't believe in the bat. Gose is going to be an everyday player in the major leagues because of his defense and speed, but his bat will dictate whether he's at the top or bottom of a major league lineup. He's never walked in more than 11% of his at-bats in the minors in a full season and he looked completely lost against lefties in the majors, so his bat still needs some more refinement in the minors. With his speed, Gose has the complete tool-set to be a dynamic leadoff hitter, brings up the rear of this list because I don't believe in the bat every fully coming around.
In certain aspects, Szczur is still an athlete playing baseball, but the former Villanova gridiron star does have an innate ability to get on base and use his speed. He's not going to develop into a power hitter, so he's going to have to hit enough to leadoff or risk being stuck hitting ahead of the pitcher, but his plate discipline is strong enough that if he can manage to bat .275 in the majors, he'll get on base enough to lead off. And if he does, we get to see him run.
Grossman burst onto the scene in 2011 when he walked 104 times in a full Florida State League season. Grossman wasn't quite as statistically impressive in Double-A this season, but still posted a .376 on-base percentage despite not scaring pitchers with much power. He doesn't have any stand-out tools outside of his plate discipline (my self-appointed sixth tool), but he has shown a continued ability to get on-base and interested the Astros enough to trade for him. He projects as a Nick Swisher-type player but with about half the power. On a team with plenty of power in the lineup, he would make a solid leadoff hitter at the top of the order.
There were some questions about how well Hicks, a 2008 first round pick, was developing at the plate entering the 2012 season after he hit just .242 in the Florida State League. The 2012 season was what everyone had been expecting from Hicks, as he hit .286/.384/.460 for Double-A New Britain. Even when he was struggling at the plate he maintained his plate discipline. He's always shown a good eye and has the kind of speed wanted at the top of an order. Hicks actually displayed the kind of power that you'd expect out of his 6'2" frame and if that develops further he'll end up in the middle of the Twins lineup instead of at the top of it.
6 - Delino Deshields, Jr. (HOU)
Deshields still has a lot of work to do to refine his hitting ability, but I'll cut anyone who steals 100 bases in a season some slack. He does know his role as a table-setter and works counts well, clearly trying to get on base so he can steal more bases, which will ultimately benefit him. If he can hit anywhere above .250 in the majors, he should get on-base enough to leadoff, and if he plays every day, he'll undoubtedly steal 50-60 bases a season in the major leagues. That's a good enough leadoff hitter for the Astros, who could have a nice one-two punch of DeShields and Grossman at the top of their lineup by 2014.
O'Neill is by far the least-known prospect on this list, but his ability to get on base without striking out or hitting for any power is perhaps the best in all of the minor leagues, posting a minor league best 2.92 BB/K ratio. He's old, playing most of the 2012 season as a 24-year-old in the Florida State League, but he walked 78 times to just 26 strike outs. Age can't do that. He has absolutely no power, which means he's earned those walks himself. He's a leadoff hitter from a different era, but that doesn't mean he can't leadoff in today's game. With his ridiculous performance in the Arizona Fall League (currently hitting .563), the Cardinals could be aggressive with his assignment in 2013. He's not a better prospect than the guys on this list he's ahead of, but he may end up being a better leadoff hitter.
Goodwin may eventually have too much power for this list, but in the meantime he's got all the tools to be a solid leadoff man for the Nationals. He hit 14 home runs in his first professional season, but it remains to be seen how much of that was Goodwin taking advantage of inferior pitching in the South Atlantic League. After a mid-season promotion all the way to Double-A, he struggled at the plate, hitting just .223, but still maintained his plate discipline, a good sign for the future. There are those that see Goodwin as a 20-25 homer hitter. Depending on the rest of the Nationals lineup, that could have him leading off or hitting somewhere in the middle.
A poor final season in college allowed Bradley to drop to the back of the first round where the Red Sox grabbed him and have since watched him blossom into exactly the prospect everyone had originally expected him to be. In his first full minor league season, Bradley walked almost as often as he struck out and hit .315/.430/.482 between High and Double-A. While he didn't display much in the way of home run power, he did combine for 42 doubles, an ideal trade for a leadoff hitter. If he can continue to display that skill set, he could be atop the Red Sox batting order by the end of 2013.
Profar is the best prospect on this list, and likely the best prospect in all of baseball, but he's not a true leadoff hitter. He walks enough to handle the job, and doesn't strike out a ton, so if the Rangers continue to compile rosters with tons of power like they have the past few years he could easily end up leading off. If he develops as most scouts believe, however, the only teams he'll be leading off for are all-star teams. Profar may leadoff for the Rangers early in his career, but he'll probably ending up batting third for them in his prime, which is why he's second on this list despite being atop most prospect rankings.
A year ago, Hamilton wouldn't have been in this position. Sure he has the best speed in the game and a base-stealing hunger unlike anything in currently in baseball, but his bat still had some work to do to catch up. It did just that in 2012. The most impressive thing about Hamilton is the way he embraced his role as a leadoff hitter this season, increasing his walk rate while batting over .300. If he can even bat .260 at the major league level, he'll be on-base enough to change the game with his speed, but his development this season puts that at the low end of the spectrum. There's no reason to believe he can't hit .280/.360/.400 in the majors, which should allow him to steal around 75 bases as well. That kind of performance in front of Joey Votto will provide Reds fans with a ton of offense.