2014 MLB Top Prospects: Final Revision

Buxton

1. Byron Buxton, OF, Minnesota Twins; 12/18/1993

Year Age Lg Lev G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS TB
2012 18 2 Lgs Rk 48 189 165 33 41 10 4 5 20 11 19 41 .248 .344 .448 .792 74
2013 19 2 Lgs A-A+ 125 574 488 109 163 19 18 12 77 55 76 105 .334 .424 .520 .944 254
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Generated 10/23/2013.

Buxton is the minor league version of Los Angeles Angels outfielder Mike Trout. He has tools across the board and could continue to move quickly, likely reaching Target Field by the end of the 2014 season. While he isn’t the pure hitter that Taveras could be, Buxton has the skill set that will fill stadiums and force Minnesota into contention…if they could get some solid pitching.

2. Xander Bogaerts, SS/3B, Boston Red Sox; 10/1/1992

Year Age Lg Lev G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS TB
2010 17 DOSL FRk 63 280 239 39 75 7 5 3 42 4 30 37 .314 .396 .423 .819 101
2011 18 SALL A 72 296 265 38 69 14 2 16 45 1 25 71 .260 .324 .509 .834 135
2012 19 2 Lgs A+-AA 127 532 476 71 146 37 3 20 81 5 44 106 .307 .373 .523 .896 249
2013 20 2 Lgs AAA-AA 116 515 444 72 132 23 6 15 67 7 63 95 .297 .388 .477 .865 212
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Year Tm Lg G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS OPS+ TB
2013 BOS AL 18 50 44 7 11 2 0 1 5 1 5 13 .250 .320 .364 .684 88 16
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Bogaerts forced himself into the Red Sox immediate plans and has played a major role for the Sox in the 2013 postseason. The young infielder could take the everyday job at short in 2014 with Stephen Drew reaching free agency, and his production up the middle could make him one of the top fantasy shortstops this side of Troy Tulowitzki.

Courtesy: stlouiscardinalsbaseball.com
Courtesy: stlouiscardinalsbaseball.com

3. Oscar Taveras, OF, St. Louis Cardinals; 6/19/1992

Year Age Lg Lev G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS TB
2009 17 DOSL FRk 65 272 237 35 61 13 8 1 42 9 28 36 .257 .338 .392 .731 93
2010 18 2 Lgs Rk 60 260 241 40 73 14 3 8 45 9 13 46 .303 .342 .485 .828 117
2011 19 MIDW A 78 347 308 52 119 27 5 8 62 1 32 52 .386 .444 .584 1.028 180
2012 20 TL AA 124 531 477 83 153 37 7 23 94 10 42 56 .321 .380 .572 .953 273
2013 21 2 Lgs AAA-Rk 47 188 174 25 54 13 0 5 32 5 10 22 .310 .348 .471 .819 82
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Taveras is the best pure hitter in the minors, but he needs to stay on the field to show his true abilities. With Carlos Beltran headed towards free agency, it will be interesting to see how the Cardinals handle Taveras going into the 2014 season. With Matt Adams producing solid numbers in a limited role, it could force Allen Craig to the outfield, which would force Taveras to Triple-A or to center field in place of Jon Jay. Wherever he is, expect big things.

4. Miguel Sano, 3B, Minnesota Twins; 5/11/1993

Year Age Lg Lev G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS TB
2010 17 2 Lgs Rk-FRk 61 241 212 34 65 16 1 7 29 4 24 60 .307 .379 .491 .870 104
2011 18 APPY Rk 66 293 267 58 78 18 7 20 59 5 23 77 .292 .352 .637 .988 170
2012 19 MIDW A 129 553 457 75 118 28 4 28 100 8 80 144 .258 .373 .521 .893 238
2013 20 2 Lgs AA-A+ 123 519 439 86 123 30 5 35 103 11 65 142 .280 .382 .610 .992 268
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Sano has amazing power and he has maintained his power production as he has climbed the minor league ladder. With Sano and Buxton, the Twins have a new duo that will likely outproduce the numbers that Justin Morneau and Joe Mauer put up in their prime, and with Sano having hit 90 home runs before his 21st birthday in the minors, it will be very hard for the offensive-starved Twins to wait for his massive power ability.

Walker

5. Taijuan Walker, RHP, Seattle Mariners; 8/13/1992

Year Age Lg Lev W L ERA G CG SHO IP H R ER HR BB SO WHIP H/9 SO/9 SO/BB
2010 17 ARIZ Rk 1 1 1.29 4 0 0 7.0 2 3 1 0 3 9 0.714 2.6 11.6 3.00
2011 18 MIDW A 6 5 2.89 18 1 0 96.2 69 33 31 4 39 113 1.117 6.4 10.5 2.90
2012 19 SOUL AA 7 10 4.69 25 0 0 126.2 124 70 66 12 50 118 1.374 8.8 8.4 2.36
2013 20 2 Lgs AA-AAA 9 10 2.93 25 0 0 141.1 112 56 46 11 57 160 1.196 7.1 10.2 2.81
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Year Tm Lg W L ERA G CG SHO IP H R ER HR BB SO WHIP H/9 SO/9 SO/BB
2013 SEA AL 1 0 3.60 3 0 0 15.0 11 7 6 0 4 12 1.000 6.6 7.2 3.00
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Walker is a freakishly gifted athlete as a pitcher, and if he can maintain consistency in repeating his mechanics and release, he could supplant Felix Hernandez as the Mariners’ No.1 starter at some point over the next few seasons. He has tremendous stuff and once he gains a better understanding of how to pitch with it, he will soar. He has very little left to prove in Tacoma and it wouldn’t be surprising to see him start the season with Seattle, especially after the Mariners seem all-in after signing Robinson Cano. Keep in mind, Walker has put up these solid numbers after becoming a pitcher in his senior year of high school, which was a little over three years ago now.

6. Archie Bradley, RHP, Arizona Diamondbacks; 8/10/1992

Year Age Lg Lev W L ERA G CG SHO IP H R ER HR BB SO WHIP H/9 SO/9 SO/BB
2011 18 PION Rk 0 0 0.00 2 0 0 2.0 1 0 0 0 0 4 0.500 4.5 18.0
2012 19 MIDW A 12 6 3.84 27 0 0 136.0 87 64 58 6 84 152 1.257 5.8 10.1 1.81
2013 20 2 Lgs AA-A+ 14 5 1.84 26 2 0 152.0 115 40 31 6 69 162 1.211 6.8 9.6 2.35
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A lot of Bradley’s success had to do with his ability to throw more strikes. He went from walking 5.5 per nine in 2012 to 4.1 in 2013, and if he maintains that type of growth in the upper minors, he’ll be ready for Chase Field in no time. With the stuff that he has, you’d like to see him allow fewer base runners, but there was a time that I doubted Matt Harvey and Clayton Kershaw for the same reasons. I won’t be doing that again.

7. Carlos Correa, SS, Houston Astros; 9/22/1994

Year Age Lg Lev G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS TB
2012 17 2 Lgs Rk 50 204 190 28 49 14 2 3 12 6 12 44 .258 .305 .400 .705 76
2013 18 MIDW A 117 519 450 73 144 33 3 9 86 10 58 83 .320 .405 .467 .872 210
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Correa has a great skill-set, one that prompted a lot of Alex Rodriguez comparisons when he was the No.1 overall pick in the 2012 MLB Draft. Unfortunately, the comparisons may never stop for Correa, who may have to be linked to Buxton, who was taken No.2 overall in the 2012 Draft, over the rest of his career. Fortunately for Correa, he is also capable of All-Star level production, so this won’t become a Sam Bowie versus Michael Jordan issue for the Houston Astros. Correa is likely in for an absolutely incredible breakout in 2014 as the doubles head over the wall and he continues to make solid adjustments at the plate. Like Bogaerts, he could be as elite as they come at shortstop, likely arriving by mid-2015.

Baez

8. Javier Baez, SS, Chicago Cubs; 12/1/1992

Year Age Lg Lev G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS TB
2011 18 2 Lgs Rk-A- 5 18 18 2 5 2 0 0 1 2 0 4 .278 .278 .389 .667 7
2012 19 2 Lgs A-A+ 80 321 293 50 86 13 6 16 46 24 14 69 .294 .346 .543 .888 159
2013 20 2 Lgs A+-AA 130 577 517 98 146 34 4 37 111 20 40 147 .282 .341 .578 .920 299
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Swinging hard and quick, Baez unravels his coiled body and creates impressive power…which comes with impressive strikeout totals, as well. With Starlin Castro signed long-term, Baez is going to likely be moved off of shortstop, but he has the stick to play third or an outfield corner. The Cubs are aggressive in how they handle their prospects, but we’ll have to see if the Theo Epstein regime is going to be wise with the cost-efficiency and service-time issues that could arise by allowing Baez to get some time in at Wrigley in 2014. He could force their hand, though.

9. Addison Russell, SS, Oakland Athletics; 1/23/1994

Year Age Lg Lev G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS TB
2012 18 3 Lgs Rk-A-A- 55 244 217 46 80 10 9 7 45 16 23 48 .369 .432 .594 1.027 129
2013 19 2 Lgs A+-AAA 110 517 442 86 119 29 10 17 60 21 61 125 .269 .369 .495 .865 219
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The A’s were SUPER aggressive with Russell in 2013, starting the season with the California League (high-A) affiliate after getting just 58 at-bats for the club’s low-A squad in 2012 and getting all of 217 at-bats in his first professional season. He did so well in 2013 that he was bumped to Triple-A to assist with Sacramento’s playoff push, and while he was over-matched, it shows just how highly Oakland thinks of him. He may get lost in the dynamic shortstop shuffle, but it wouldn’t be surprising to see Russell in the majors first, producing solid overall numbers and bringing life to the Oakland lineup.

10. Francisco Lindor, SS, Cleveland Indians; 11/14/1993

Year Age Lg Lev G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS TB
2011 17 NYPL A- 5 20 19 4 6 0 0 0 2 1 1 5 .316 .350 .316 .666 6
2012 18 MIDW A 122 567 490 83 126 24 3 6 42 27 61 78 .257 .352 .355 .707 174
2013 19 2 Lgs A+-AA 104 464 403 65 122 22 7 2 34 25 49 46 .303 .380 .407 .787 164
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Lindor will have tremendous value for the Indians with his above-average defensive skills, but it won’t stop there. While Lindor won’t be a middle-of-the-order talent like Bogaerts and Correa, he has the skill-set to be a very effective leadoff hitter, while having the contact skills to be a great No.2 hitter, setting the table for Jason Kipnis and Carlos Santana, likely by mid-2014.

11. Kevin Gausman, RHP, Baltimore Orioles; 1/6/1991

Year Age Lg W L ERA G GS CG SHO IP H R ER HR BB SO WHIP H/9 BB/9 SO/9 SO/BB
2013 22 AL 3 5 5.66 20 5 0 0 47.2 51 30 30 8 13 49 1.343 9.6 2.5 9.3 3.77
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Year Age Lg Lev W L ERA G GF SHO IP H R ER HR BB SO WHIP H/9 BB/9 SO/9 SO/BB
2012 21 2 Lgs A+-A- 0 1 3.60 5 0 0 15.0 11 6 6 3 1 13 0.800 6.6 0.6 7.8 13.00
2013 22 2 Lgs AA-AAA 3 6 3.51 16 1 0 82.0 80 37 32 4 14 82 1.146 8.8 1.5 9.0 5.86
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Gausman wasn’t on my original list because I assumed that he had been rostered by the O’s for too long to still qualify; however, you know what happens when you assume…Gausman is an absolute monster, capable of hitting triple-digits while working 95-98 with his fastball. His slider is an out pitch, as are the two variations of his changeup. Due to being a college arm with such electric stuff, Gausman could easily receive comps to Justin Verlander, and while those are high expectations, it wouldn’t be hard to envision that type of production if everything clicks. As is, he’s quite capable of being the top pitcher from this list.

12. Noah Syndergaard, RHP, New York Mets; 8/29/1992

Year Age Lg Lev W L ERA G GF SHO IP H R ER HR BB SO WHIP H/9 SO/9 SO/BB
2010 17 GULF Rk 0 1 2.70 5 0 0 13.1 11 7 4 0 4 6 1.125 7.4 4.0 1.50
2011 18 3 Lgs Rk-A–A 5 2 1.83 13 1 0 59.0 46 14 12 1 18 68 1.085 7.0 10.4 3.78
2012 19 MIDW A 8 5 2.60 27 2 0 103.2 81 41 30 3 31 122 1.080 7.0 10.6 3.94
2013 20 2 Lgs A+-AA 9 4 3.06 23 0 0 117.2 107 48 40 11 28 133 1.147 8.2 10.2 4.75
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The stuff is off the charts, at least the fastball, and with further development of his secondary stuff, Syndergaard will be a tremendous No.2 starter for the Mets. The haul from the R.A. Dickey trade certainly took a major bump upwards when Syndergaard showed such drastic improvement, and after reaching Double-A in 2013 and the injury to Harvey, it wouldn’t be surprising to see the tall right-hander get a shot before the All-Star break in 2014.

13. Robert Stephenson, RHP, Cincinnati Reds; 2/24/1993

Year Age Lg Lev W L ERA G CG SHO IP H R ER HR BB SO WHIP H/9 SO/9 SO/BB
2012 19 2 Lgs A-Rk 3 4 3.18 15 0 0 65.0 54 34 23 6 23 72 1.185 7.5 10.0 3.13
2013 20 3 Lgs A-A+-AA 7 7 2.99 22 0 0 114.1 92 49 38 10 35 136 1.111 7.2 10.7 3.89
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Stephenson’s numbers were absurd in 2013. I saw a start in Dayton that he looked like he was toying with the opposition, but that seems to be the norm for him. He has a tremendous fastball, touching triple-digits several times during the 2013 campaign, and he earned promotions (a quick one from the pitching-deadly California League) by succeeding. The Reds will likely slow down the process and keep him in Double-A most of the 2014 season, but he could be a reliable starter by 2015, just in time for the possible loss of Mat Latos and Johnny Cueto.

14. Jameson Taillon, RHP, Pittsburgh Pirates; 11/18/1991

Year Age Lg Lev W L ERA G CG SHO IP H R ER HR BB SO WHIP H/9 SO/9 SO/BB
2011 19 SALL A 2 3 3.98 23 0 0 92.2 89 45 41 9 22 97 1.198 8.6 9.4 4.41
2012 20 2 Lgs A+-AA 9 8 3.55 26 2 0 142.0 120 60 56 10 38 116 1.113 7.6 7.4 3.05
2013 21 2 Lgs AA-AAA 5 10 3.73 26 0 0 147.1 143 70 61 9 52 143 1.324 8.7 8.7 2.75
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Gerrit Cole has taken the reigns from Taillon as the Pirates’ No.1 starter, but he does have the skills to help guide Cole and the Bucs to another postseason appearance in 2013, likely joining the rotation mid-season like Cole and developing the final touches on his stuff at the major league level. Taillon doesn’t look to have the ceiling that Cole does, but that doesn’t mean that he isn’t special. The 2013 season was a bit disappointing statistically, so the 2014 season will go a long way in determining the long-term outlook on this young man.

15. Gregory Polanco, OF, Pittsburgh Pirates; 9/14/1991

Year Age Lg Lev G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS TB
2009 17 DOSL FRk 63 261 221 34 59 8 6 0 24 12 33 50 .267 .370 .357 .727 79
2010 18 GULF Rk 53 200 188 21 38 5 1 3 23 19 9 41 .202 .245 .287 .532 54
2011 19 2 Lgs Rk-A- 51 213 179 34 41 4 4 3 35 18 24 35 .229 .322 .346 .669 62
2012 20 SALL A 116 485 437 84 142 26 6 16 85 40 44 64 .325 .388 .522 .910 228
2013 21 3 Lgs AA-A+-AAA 127 536 470 66 134 30 2 12 71 38 52 73 .285 .356 .434 .791 204
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Like the Pirates need another gifted outfielder. With Andrew McCutchen in center and Starling Marte in left, Polanco will likely man right, providing Pittsburgh with three outfielders capable of playing center field while producing solid numbers across the board. Polanco, though, looks like a better all-around player than Marte, showing gap power, speed, and a very good approach at the plate. He may not be an MVP candidate like “Cutch”, but he’ll provide value in Pittsburgh for quite some time as a definitive upgrade over the Jose TabataGarrett Jones, and Travis Snider parade that has provided very little value over the last several seasons.

16. Albert Almora, OF, Chicago Cubs; 4/16/1994

Year Age Lg Lev G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS TB
2012 18 2 Lgs Rk-A- 33 145 140 27 45 12 1 2 19 5 2 13 .321 .331 .464 .795 65
2013 19 MIDW A 61 272 249 39 82 17 4 3 23 4 17 30 .329 .376 .466 .842 116
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Almora, like Baez, has tools and skills to become an elite talent at the major league level, although, unlike Baez, Almora is more of a contact and gap-power hitter and not the light-tower power that his counterpart possesses. In a small sample, he showed something that a lot of Cubs’ prospects don’t…plate discipline. With his ability to make solid contact, he looks like a solid top-of-the-order player, but he could very well grow into something much more. If nothing else, Almora will provide Gold Glove defensive ability.

Castellanos

17. Nick Castellanos, 3B/OF, Detroit Tigers; 3/4/1992

Year Age Lg Lev G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS TB
2010 18 GULF Rk 7 29 24 5 8 2 0 0 3 0 4 5 .333 .414 .417 .830 10
2011 19 MIDW A 135 562 507 65 158 36 3 7 76 3 45 130 .312 .367 .436 .803 221
2012 20 2 Lgs AA-A+ 134 584 537 72 172 32 4 10 57 8 36 118 .320 .365 .451 .815 242
2013 21 IL AAA 134 595 533 81 147 37 1 18 76 4 54 100 .276 .343 .450 .793 240
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Year Tm Lg G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS OPS+ TB
2013 DET AL 11 18 18 1 5 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 .278 .278 .278 .556 51 5
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Castellanos did take a few more walks in 2013, so that is a great step in his development, as his long swing and inability to take a walk was a concern for many prospect graders in the past. With the trade of Prince Fielder to the Texas Rangers, it looks like Castellanos will move back to third base, with Miguel Cabrera sliding back across the diamond to first. As a corner outfielder, Castellanos’ production was likely a bit lacking, but with just a few consistent producers at the hot corner, a young player like this capable of 15-20 home runs and 30-plus doubles is a nice addition to the field. If he maintains his improved approach, Castellanos could be a real candidate for the 2014 AL Rookie of the Year.

18. George Springer, OF, Houston Astros; 9/19/1989

Year Age Lg Lev G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS TB
2011 21 NYPL A- 8 33 28 8 5 3 0 1 3 4 2 2 .179 .303 .393 .696 11
2012 22 2 Lgs A+-AA 128 581 506 109 153 21 10 24 87 32 62 156 .302 .383 .526 .908 266
2013 23 2 Lgs AA-AAA 135 589 492 106 149 27 4 37 108 45 83 161 .303 .411 .600 1.010 295
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Like Castellanos, Springer takes some shots due to his strikeout totals; however, his all-around game could still allow for success at the major league level. Just three home runs shy of posting a 40/40 season in 2013, Springer would have likely had a bigger impact on the Astros winning games than any of the group of Brandon Barnes, J.D. Martinez, L.J. Hoes, Robbie Grossman, and Trevor Crowe that helped Houston lose 111 games in 2013. While it seems unreasonable to expect 40/40 production in the majors, Springer could provide seasons of 25 HR/25 SB annually, which will be quite valuable once the club’s elite prospects join him in Houston and the Astros begin contending in the next few years.

19. Jonathan Gray, RHP, Colorado Rockies; 11/5/1991

Year Age Lg Lev W L ERA G CG SHO IP H R ER HR BB SO WHIP H/9 SO/9 SO/BB
2013 21 2 Lgs A+-Rk 4 0 1.93 9 0 0 37.1 25 11 8 0 8 51 0.884 6.0 12.3 6.38
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Despite taking some medication for ADHD and looking like a potential slider in the 2013 MLB Draft, the Rockies jumped at the chance to draft Gray and his incredible fastball and the results were nothing short of sexy. Coor’s Field will continue to be a question mark when it comes to the ceiling of pitching prospects for Colorado, but I can’t remember a time that the Rockies have had a pitcher like this. Lockdown, shutdown stuff like Gray’s will be very useful if the Rockies are ever going to contend in the NL West. It wouldn’t surprise me to see Gray in the top five at the end of next season, possibly even the mid-season lists, and his electric fastball and slider should suit him well in the thin, Denver air.

20. Carlos Martinez, RHP, St. Louis Cardinals; 9/21/1991

Year Age Tm W L ERA G GF SHO SV IP H R ER HR BB SO WHIP H/9 BB/9 SO/9 SO/BB
2013 21 STL 2 1 5.08 21 5 0 1 28.1 31 16 16 1 9 24 1.412 9.8 2.9 7.6 2.67
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Year Age Lg Lev W L ERA G GS CG SHO IP H R ER HR BB SO WHIP H/9 BB/9 SO/9 SO/BB
2010 18 DOSL FRk 3 2 0.76 12 12 1 0 59.0 28 8 5 1 14 78 0.712 4.3 2.1 11.9 5.57
2011 19 2 Lgs A+-A 6 5 3.93 18 18 0 0 84.2 76 41 37 3 44 98 1.417 8.1 4.7 10.4 2.23
2012 20 2 Lgs AA-A+ 6 5 2.93 22 21 0 0 104.1 91 39 34 6 32 92 1.179 7.8 2.8 7.9 2.88
2013 21 2 Lgs AAA-AA 6 3 2.49 16 16 0 0 79.2 65 25 22 4 28 72 1.167 7.3 3.2 8.1 2.57
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Generated 1/2/2014.

Martinez has earned a lot of Pedro Martinez comparisons due to his size and being a Dominican Republic native, but the stuff is also involved in those comps. Carlos Martinez is quite capable of dominating in the majors in 2014, but he still needs a rotation spot, and that is the lone reason for his ranking. The Cardinals depth is scary, as Trevor Rosenthal and Martinez appear bullpen bound for the next several seasons with Adam Wainwright, Michael Wacha, Shelby Miller, Lance Lynn, Joe Kelly, and Jaime Garcia ahead of them on the depth charts, and while a trade seems easy to say as a bystander, why would you deal any of those guys? Martinez will be dominant in whatever role he fills, but he slides to 20 due to his unknown future role.

21. Aaron Sanchez, RHP, Toronto Blue Jays; 4/1/1992

Year Age Lg Lev W L ERA G CG SHO IP H R ER HR BB SO WHIP H/9 SO/9 SO/BB
2010 17 2 Lgs Rk-A- 0 3 2.16 10 0 0 25.0 23 15 6 1 17 37 1.600 8.3 13.3 2.18
2011 18 2 Lgs Rk-A- 3 3 5.30 14 0 0 54.1 53 33 32 4 26 56 1.454 8.8 9.3 2.15
2012 19 MIDW A 8 5 2.49 25 0 0 90.1 64 33 25 3 51 97 1.273 6.4 9.7 1.90
2013 20 FLOR A+ 4 5 3.34 22 0 0 86.1 63 40 32 4 40 75 1.193 6.6 7.8 1.88
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Sanchez is the pitching equivalent to Oscar Taveras: Electric, game-changing stuff…he just can’t stay on the field. In 2013, it was the shoulder, which is always scary when it comes to a pitcher with a high-90’s fastball, that led to Sanchez missing time. Beyond the injuries, the walks are also an issue. The issues are obvious in Sanchez and his inability to reach his ceiling, but the fact that he has the stuff to be a No.1 starter and he is entering his age-21 season, they’re worth holding out for. The Jays will hope that this is the year that he puts it all together.

Giolito

22. Lucas Giolito, RHP, Washington Nationals; 7/14/1994

Year Age Lg Lev W L ERA G IP H R ER HR BB SO WHIP H/9 BB/9 SO/9 SO/BB
2012 17 GULF Rk 0 0 4.50 1 2.0 2 1 1 0 0 1 1.000 9.0 0.0 4.5
2013 18 2 Lgs Rk-A- 2 1 1.96 11 36.2 28 9 8 1 14 39 1.145 6.9 3.4 9.6 2.79
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Generated 1/2/2014.

After having Tommy John surgery, Giolito came back with a vengeance in 2013, showcasing the electric arm and stuff that made him the 16th overall pick in 2012, despite possessing said cranky elbow at the time of his selection. Giolito has No.1 stuff, and it wouldn’t be surprising to see Washington be very aggressive with the 6’6″, 225 pound right-hander, likely starting him in Low-A Hagerstown, with a brief appearance for High-A Potomac by years end.

23. Dylan Bundy, RHP, Baltimore Orioles; 11/15/1992

Year Age Lg Lev W L ERA G CG SHO IP H R ER HR BB SO WHIP H/9 SO/9 SO/BB
2012 19 3 Lgs A+-A-AA 9 3 2.08 23 0 0 103.2 67 29 24 6 28 119 0.916 5.8 10.3 4.25
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Generated 10/23/2013.
Year Tm Lg W L ERA G GS CG SHO IP H R ER HR BB SO WHIP H/9 SO/9 SO/BB
2012 BAL AL 0 0 0.00 2 0 0 0 1.2 1 0 0 0 1 0 1.200 5.4 0.0 0.00
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Generated 10/23/2013.

Bundy missed all of the 2013 season after undergoing Tommy John surgery, but he was near the top of everyone’s lists prior to the injury. With the going success rates of the surgery, Bundy could jump right back to where he was when he returns this season. The Orioles will be very cautious with him, but he should be looked at a lot like Stephen Strasburg was – he was an ace-level talent who was hurt, had surgery, and was thought of an ace again once healthy.

24. Kyle Zimmer, RHP, Kansas City Royals; 9/13/1991

Year Age Lg Lev W L ERA G CG SHO IP H R ER HR BB SO WHIP H/9 SO/9 SO/BB
2012 20 2 Lgs A-Rk 3 3 2.04 9 1 1 39.2 39 16 9 1 8 42 1.185 8.8 9.5 5.25
2013 21 2 Lgs A+-AA 6 9 4.32 22 1 1 108.1 91 58 52 11 36 140 1.172 7.6 11.6 3.89
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Generated 10/23/2013.

Zimmer struggled for some time last season before everything just clicked and he was an absolute monster. There is an adjustment period in many prospects, and the Zimmer who was electric and dominant is the pitcher that the Royals and the rest of us should expect going forward. If the Royals are competitive in 2014, Zimmer will be a viable option to guide them to the playoffs down the stretch.

25. Kris Bryant, 3B/OF, Chicago Cubs; 1/4/1992

Year Age Lg Lev G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS TB
2013 21 3 Lgs A–A+-Rk 36 146 128 22 43 14 2 9 32 1 11 35 .336 .390 .688 1.078 88
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Generated 10/23/2013.

Bryant’s long-term position remains a mystery, but wherever he ends up, he will likely be producing All-Star level numbers, with a whole lot of swing and miss ability. The Cubs have quite a few middle infield options (Junior Lake, Javier Baez, Starlin Castro, Arismendy Alcantara, Darwin Barney) and someone will be moved to third (likely Baez), but Bryant at first, left, or right is just as potent. The transition to a different position could lead to some offensive struggles, but the fans on Sheffield Avenue and Waveland Avenue will see quite a few home runs starting sometime in 2014, as Bryant quickly rises through the Cubs strong offensive system. .

"Cubs

26. Jorge Soler, OF, Chicago Cubs; 2/25/1992

27. Austin Meadows, OF, Pittsburgh Pirates; 5/3/1995

28. Hunter Harvey, RHP, Baltimore Orioles; 12/9/1994

29. Yordano Ventura, RHP, Kansas City Royals; 6/3/1991

30. Corey Seager, SS, Los Angeles Dodgers; 4/27/1994

31. Travis d’Arnaud, C, New York Mets; 2/10/1989

32. Austin Hedges, C, San Diego Padres; 8/18/1992

33. Billy Hamilton, OF, Cincinnati Reds; 9/9/1990

34. Mark Appel, RHP, Houston Astros; 7/15/1991

35. Jonathan Singleton, 1B, Houston Astros; 9/18/1991

36. Alex Meyer, RHP, Minnesota Twins; 1/3/1990

37. Joc Pederson, OF, Los Angeles Dodgers; 4/21/1992

"Indians

38. Clint Frazier, OF, Cleveland Indians; 9/6/1994

39. Matt Wisler, RHP, San Diego Padres; 9/12/1992

40. Rougned Odor, 2B, Texas Rangers; 2/3/1994

41. Max Fried, LHP, San Diego Padres; 1/18/1994

42. Kyle Crick, RHP, San Francisco Giants; 11/30/1992

43. Andrew Heaney, LHP, Miami Marlins; 6/5/1991

44. Eddie Butler, RHP, Colorado Rockies; 3/13/1991

45. Garin Cecchini, 3B, Boston Red Sox; 4/20/1991

46. Colin Moran, 3B, Miami Marlins; 10/1/1992

47. Jackie Bradley, OF, Boston Red Sox; 4/19/1990

48. Michael Foltynewicz, RHP, Houston Astros; 10/7/1991

49. Kohl Stewart, RHP, Minnesota Twins; 10/7/1994

50. Marcus Stroman, RHP, Toronto Blue Jays; 5/1/1991

51. Eduardo Rodriguez, LHP, Baltimore Orioles; 4/7/1993

52. Tyler Glasnow, RHP, Pittsburgh Pirates; 8/23/1993

"Mariners

53. James Paxton, LHP, Seattle Mariners; 11/6/1988

54. Kolten Wong, 2B, St. Louis Cardinals; 10/10/1990

55. Raul Mondesi, SS, Kansas City Royals; 7/27/1995

56. Jorge Alfaro, C, Texas Rangers; 6/11/1993

57. D.J. Peterson, 3B, Seattle Mariners; 12/31/1991

58. Phillip Ervin, OF, Cincinnati Reds; 7/17/1992

59. Lucas Sims, RHP, Atlanta Braves; 5/10/1994

60Gary Sanchez, C, New York Yankees; 12/2/1992

61. Henry Owens, LHP, Boston Red Sox; 7/21/1992

62. Bubba Starling, OF, Kansas City Royals; 8/3/1992

63. Nick Williams, OF, Texas Rangers; 9/8/1993

64. Arismendy Alcantara, 2B/SS, Chicago Cubs; 10/29/1991

65. Jesse Winker, OF, Cincinnati Reds; 8/17/1993

66. C.J. Edwards, RHP, Chicago Cubs; 9/3/1991

67. Julio Urias, LHP, Los Angeles Dodgers; 8/12/1996

68. Trevor Bauer, RHP, Cleveland Indians; 1/17/1991

69. Jonathan Schoop, 2B/SS, Baltimore Orioles; 10/16/1991

70. J.P. Crawford, SS, Philadelphia Phillies; 1/11/1995

71. Sean Manaea, LHP, Kansas City Royals; 2/1/1992

72. Jake Odorizzi, RHP, Tampa Bay Rays; 3/27/1990

73. Blake Swihart, C, Boston Red Sox; 4/3/1992

74. Erik Johnson, RHP, Chicago White Sox; 12/30/1989

75. A.J. Cole, RHP, Washington Nationals; 1/5/1992

76. Alen Hanson, SS, Pittsburgh Pirates; 10/22/1992

77. Alberto Tirado, RHP, Toronto Blue Jays; 12/10/1994

78. Lance McCullers, RHP, Houston Astros; 10/2/1993

79. Eddie Rosario, 2B/OF, Minnesota Twins; 9/28/1991

80. Rafael Montero, RHP, New York Mets; 10/17/1990

81. Zach Lee, RHP, Los Angeles Dodgers; 9/13/1991

82. Miguel Almonte, RHP, Kansas City Royals; 4/4/1993

83. Enny Romero, LHP, Tampa Bay Rays; 1/24/1991

84. Victor Sanchez, RHP, Seattle Mariners; 1/30/1995

85. Matt Barnes, RHP, Boston Red Sox; 6/17/1990

86. David Dahl, OF, Colorado Rockies; 4/1/1994

87. Reese McGuire, C, Pittsburgh Pirates; 3/2/1995

88. Brian Goodwin, OF, Washington Nationals; 11/2/1990

89. Jake Marisnick, OF, Miami Marlins; 3/30/1991

"Phillies

90. Maikel Franco, 3B, Philadelphia Phillies; 8/26/1992

91. Alex Colome, RHP, Tampa Bay Rays; 12/31/1988

92. Anthony Ranaudo, RHP, Boston Red Sox; 9/9/1989

93. Chris Owings, SS, Arizona Diamondbacks; 8/12/1991

94. Joey Gallo, 1B/3B, Texas Rangers; 11/19/1993

95. Jorge Bonifacio, OF, Kansas City Royals; 6/4/1993

96. Mike Olt, 1B/3B, Chicago Cubs; 8/27/1988

97. Dorssys Paulino, SS, Cleveland Indians; 11/21/1994

98. Trey Ball, LHP, Boston Red Sox; 6/27/1994

99. Clayton Blackburn, RHP, San Francisco Giants; 1/6/1993

100. Jimmy Nelson, RHP, Milwaukee Brewers; 6/5/1989


//

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2014 Breakout Candidates

As fantasy baseball managers await the landing spots of the remaining big-name free agents, they should also be using this time to look for players who will take giant steps towards stardom during the 2014 season. We have all seen the dominance of Mike Trout and Miguel Cabrera over the last two seasons, but how many people saw Paul Goldschmidt going from a 2.9 WAR player in 2012 to a 6.4 WAR player in 2013? Last February, I wrote this same article and listed Goldschmidt, Matt Moore, Chris Tillman, Chris Johnson, Carlos Gomez, Salvador Perez, and Dexter Fowler, while missing on Kyle Kendrick and Ike Davis. That’s not a bad percentage if you ask me, so we’ll give it another go for 2014. Here are some names to watch in the 2014 Major League Baseball season.

SimmonsAndrelton Simmons, Atlanta Braves, SS

2013: .248/.296/.396, 27 2B, 6 3B, 17 HR, 59 RBI

2014 prediction: .277/.332/.435, 33 2B, 5 3B, 19 HR, 67 RBI

You know, this isn’t a huge leap forward in offensive numbers in my prediction, but it is possible that Simmons becomes a lot more than that. Simmons isn’t a speed demon on the base paths like a Jean Segura or Elvis Andrus, but whatever happened with his swing in 2013 that created power could be what separates him from shortstops not named Troy Tulowitzki. Simmons is already an elite defender and when he hit 17 home runs in 2013, after having a previous career-high of six (combined in Double-A and the majors in 2012), he became quite a factor offensively, as well. When considering the counting stats that came out of Simmons with a .247 BABIP, what could he do with a league average BABIP? Then, factor in his 29 extra-base hits in 67 games in the second half, when he posted a 120 sOPS+, and you could see the evolution of his game going even further. Simmons may never become a truly elite offensive player, but his ability to put the bat to the ball will eventually lead to more balls in play, and that means more production. Is the power for real? We’ll find out this season, but if it played in 2013 with very little help in the lineup from Dan Uggla, Jason Heyward, and B.J. Upton, imagine what his counting stats could look like when he sees better pitches.

BeltBrandon Belt, San Francisco Giants, 1B

2013: .289/.360/.481, 39 2B, 4 3B, 17 HR, 67 RBI

2014 prediction: .294/.373/.521, 33 2B, 3 3B, 27 HR, 92 RBI

Belt finally received over 500 plate appearances in 2013 and he posted a 142 OPS+, elevated by his .915 OPS in the second half. He turns 26 in April and he is physically maturing into a player that even Bruce Bochy can’t bench, despite Michael Morse signing with the Giants and being an atrocious left fielder. It will be hard for Belt to duplicate his .392 BABIP from the second half of 2013, but he has managed an extremely high BABIP over his career from the minors through last season, so a full season of a .351 BABIP (the number he has duplicated the last two seasons)  would likely lead to further offensive improvements. Even in a difficult home ballpark, Belt seems poised for an extreme breakout.

Kole Calhoun, Los Angeles Angels, OF

2013: .282/.347/.462, 7 2B, 2 3B, 8 HR, 32 RBI in 222 plate appearances

2014 prediction: .275/.356/.481, 29 2B, 5 3B, 19 HR, 81 RBI

In a season that was devastated by zero pitching and very little production out of high-priced stars Josh Hamilton and Albert Pujols, the Angels did have a couple of bright spots – of course, Mike Trout, but fellow outfielder Kole Calhoun opened some eyes late in the year. With Mark Trumbo out of the picture, Calhoun will ever a star-studded lineup, and while he isn’t going to post numbers similar to those of his teammates, he will be quite productive. At 26, Calhoun is a little older than your typical “new prospect” entering their first full season in the bigs, but he was a college bat who moved pretty quickly through the Halos’ system, never appearing in a game in Double-A. With solid plate discipline and plenty of protection, Calhoun could improve upon the 126 wRC+ that he posted over the second half of the season, when he solidified himself as a reliable option for the Angels. Think of him as a better version of Cody Ross with a much better supporting cast.

Christian Yelich, Miami Marlins, OF

2013: .288/.370/.396, 12 2B, 1 3B, 4 HR, 16 RBI, 10 SB in 273 plate appearances

2014 prediction: .310/.375/.435, 34 2B, 6 3B, 12 HR, 71 RBI, 22 SB

Yelich may not make for an elite defender wherever he ends up, but the guy has an impressive approach and enough speed to make himself useful on the base paths. Having just turned 22 years old at the beginning of December, there could be some harsh adjustments, but Yelich has been able to adjust as he has flown through the Marlins’ minor league system, slashing .313/.387/.499 over 1,292 plate appearances. Yelich will never be a 30-homer producer, as I tend to think of him as a Mark Grace-like hitter, but Grace made three All-Star appearances and fell just short of 2.500 career hits. Yelich will be a very effective asset for Miami and fantasy teams alike…immediately. Considering that Yelich was the 30th most valuable offensive player in baseball in the second half (which is his entire career, based on FanGraphs), why should anyone think otherwise?

AckleyDustin Ackley, Seattle Mariners, 2B/OF

2013: .253/.319/.341, 18 2B, 2 3B, 4 HR, 31 RBI

2014 prediction: .285/.347/.439, 29 2B, 4 3B, 15 HR, 68 RBI

The epitome of buying low, Ackley’s career hasn’t really worked out to this point, but after he hit .304/.374/.435 in the second half of 2013 (208 plate appearances), he has earned himself another look, with the Mariners or whoever he gets traded to if Seattle signs another outfielder. The club has already re-signed Franklin Gutierrez to take some at-bats away from Ackley, but he never seems capable of staying on the field. Ackley was the 2nd overall pick in the 2009 MLB Draft and he still has the tools to prove that he was worthy of that pick. It’s possible that the shifting from position to position has been a challenge to him as he adjusts to life in the majors, and with Robinson Cano now at second base, and Logan Morrison and Corey Hart capable of playing first base, Ackley is now a center fielder. He has gap power, solid on-base skills, and, finally, an opportunity (barring any unforeseen trades or signings).

RossTyson Ross, San Diego Padres, RHP

2013: 3-8, 3.17 ERA, 1.15 WHIP, 125 IP, 119:44 K:BB

2014 prediction: 9-6, 3.34 ERA, 1.19 WHIP, 165 IP, 171:52 K:BB

The Padres have a very crowded rotation, with Ian Kennedy, Josh Johnson, Andrew Cashner, and Robbie Erlin locked into rotation spots. Ross will be in a group with Eric Stults, Casey Kelly, Cory Luebke, and Burch Smith, battling for the fifth spot in the rotation, but after his solid second half, the 6’6″, 230 pound right-hander deserves the longest look. Ross has always bounced around from the bullpen to the rotation, but in his 13 starts down the stretch last season, Ross posted a 2.93 ERA and 0.99 WHIP over 80 innings, posting an 85:23 K:BB, along with a 9.6 K/9, the highest of his career. His slider became a swing and miss pitch with his mid-90’s fastball, and he could be very useful for the Padres or another club in 2014. Since he is eligible for arbitration for the first time, he is still cost effective (for the time being), but he took a large step forward in maintaining a role last season, and it would be a shame for him to lose that role after pitching so well. Keep an eye on him this spring and make sure to verify what San Diego does with him. With so many other options and the Padres success in finding bullpen arms from the depths of the world, if he isn’t starting, they need to move him for some offensive assistance.

Jhoulys Chacin, Colorado Rockies, RHP

2013: 14-10, 3.47 ERA, 1.26 WHIP, 197.1 IP, 126:61 K:BB

2014 prediction: 17-9, 3.20 ERA, 1.18 WHIP, 212 IP, 165:58 K:BB

Sometimes, to go forward, you must first step back. Chacin’s entire career has been a group of backwards steps. His fastball has lost velocity, his K/9 has gone from 9.0 in 2010 to 5.7 in 2013, and his career-best ERA is still his 2010 season (3.28). However, the fact of the matter is that Chacin knows how to pitch in Coor’s Field, he just has to stay healthy. He fell short of 200 innings again in 2013 due to back spasms landing him on the 15-day DL in April, but this is going to be the year! Chacin has cut back on the use of his curveball and change, both of which are highly affected by the thin air of Denver, instead, utilizing his slider more. He has started pitching to contact, which explains the low strikeout totals, but he seems to have enough stuff to rebound to become a useful strikeout pitcher in fantasy formats, although his average fastball dipped to 89.8 mph in 2013. The Rockies have an interesting club and a very good defensive group to assist their pitchers. If everyone stays healthy and Chacin takes his current pitching skills and combines it with how he used to pitch, he could become quite an asset, being capable of tempting the opposition to swing for contact and swing and miss whenever he wants them to.

GausmanKevin Gausman, Baltimore Orioles, RHP

2013: 3-5, 5.66 ERA, 1.34 WHIP, 47.2 IP, 49:13 K:BB

2014 prediction: 11-9, 3.22 ERA, 1.18 WHIP, 176 IP, 182:68 K:BB

Gausman, in my opinion, is the second coming of Justin Verlander, just a little smaller in stature. At 6’3″, 190 pounds, Gausman still has the size to drive towards home and get extreme velocity, which he does with a fastball that can hit triple-digits. He sits 95-98 with his fastball, he has two excellent varieties of his changeup, and a projectable slider, all of which make him capable of becoming an elite starter in the majors. The Orioles are going to contend again in 2014, and the reason for that will be a 23 year-old right-hander out of LSU whose introduction to MLB wasn’t as sexy as the rest of his career will be. It starts now.

Some Minor Leaguers/Rookie-Eligible players who could make an impact:

BradleyEduardo Rodriguez, Baltimore Orioles, LHP

Archie Bradley, Arizona Diamondbacks, RHP

Robert Stephenson, Cincinnati Reds, RHP

Alex Meyer, Minnesota Twins, RHP

Marcus Stroman, Toronto Blue Jays, RHP

Oscar Taveras, St. Louis Cardinals, OF

Miguel Sano, Minnesota Twins, 3B

Jameson Taillon, Pittsburgh Pirates, RHP

Jake Odorizzi, Tampa Bay Rays, RHP

Jackie Bradley, Jr., Boston Red Sox, OF

Bogaerts1Xander Bogaerts, Boston Red Sox, SS/3B

Taijuan Walker, Seattle Mariners, RHP

James Paxton, Seattle Mariners, LHP

Billy Hamilton, Cincinnati Reds, OF

Jose Abreu, Chicago White Sox, 1B

Miguel Alfredo Gonzalez, Philadelphia Phillies, RHP

Noah Syndergaard, New York Mets, RHP

Nick Castellanos, Detroit Tigers, 3B

Yordano Ventura, Kansas City Royals, RHP

The Hot Stove Has Caught On Fire

It certainly hasn’t taken long for teams to begin dishing out large contracts that they’ll probably regret in a couple of years with free agency well under way. However, the last 24 to 48 hours have supplied the greatest number of gifts, with a lot of examples of “huh”, “why”, “seriously”, and “come again” worthy reactions.

The Trades

The Doug Fister Trade

Detroit Tigers get: 2B Steve Lombardozzi, LHP Ian Krol, and LHP Robbie Ray

Washington Nationals get: RHP Doug Fister

FisterIt has to be called the Doug Fister trade because no one really cares about any of the players that the Tigers got back, right? If this wasn’t a total salary dump, I don’t know what it was, as the “prize” return for the Tigers is Ray, who was a 10th round pick in 2010 and had a 6.56 ERA in 2012 in his first attempt at High-A Potomac before bouncing back and having a solid season between High-A and Double-A in 2013, really doesn’t seem like a tremendous prospect; though, we have been proven wrong by Dave Dombrowski before. After the Tampa Bay Rays received one of the top young prospects in baseball, Wil Myers, in return for two controllable seasons of James Shields, you would think that the Tigers could have received more for Fister, who had managed to post an impressive 32-20 record to go along with a 3.29 ERA and 1.19 WHIP in 440.2 innings with Detroit. Fister now joins Stephen Strasburg, Jordan Zimmerman, and Gio Gonzalez within the Washington rotation, making the Nationals strong contenders for first-year manager Matt Williams in 2014.

Winner: Washington Nationals.

Smelling Fowler

Houston Astros get: CF Dexter Fowler

Colorado Rockies get: RHP Jordan Lyles and OF Brandon Barnes

Fowler1Fowler seemed to be on the trading block for some time, but he was finally dealt on Tuesday. The Astros get two affordable seasons (two-years, $11.6 million) of Fowler while they wait for George Springer to prove himself ready, or…they just acquired a nicer trade chip than what they gave up. Jordan Lyles may still be just 23 years old, but he hasn’t put it together in 377 major league innings, posting a 5.35 ERA, 1.45 WHIP, and a 6.2 K/9, and it seems very unlikely that shifting to Coor’s Field is going to assist his progression to sudden success. Brandon Barnes has some ability, but it isn’t as an everyday player, as his atrocious 127:21 K:BB and .635 OPS over 445 plate appearances goes to show. Barnes could be a fourth outfielder for the Rockies, with Carlos Gonzalez sliding over to center and Charlie Blackmon and Corey Dickerson battling it out for the left field job, or Colorado could look to free agency to upgrade in center. This deal didn’t make a whole lot of sense for the Rockies unless they saw something in Lyles and didn’t feel that Fowler would ever live up to his hot start from 2013, when he posted a 1.032 OPS and then fell off of the face of the earth. Even if Fowler doesn’t live up to those numbers, he is the most valuable piece in the deal.

Winner: Houston Astros.

The Unimpressive Three-Way

Cincinnati Reds get: LHP David Holmberg.

Tampa Bay Rays get: RHP Heath Bell and cash from Arizona, and C Ryan Hanigan from Cincinnati.

Arizona Diamondbacks get: RHP Justin Choate and a PTBNL

The Rays are always viewed as a smart club and they were able to land another potential closer after losing Fernando Rodney to free agency, leaving the club with Heath Bell and Juan Carlos Oviedo to battle it out for the gig. On top of that, they received an excellent framing catcher in Hanigan, who has proved to be quite valuable to Cincinnati over the last several years in game-calling, while inking the backstop to a three-year extension upon the completion of the deal. The bad part, though, is that both Bell and Hanigan weren’t very good last season, with Hanigan, in particular, looking like a nightmare offensively, posting a .198/.306/.261 line over 260 plate appearances, leading to the Reds leaning on Brayan Pena, who was signed to a two-year deal earlier this winter, and Devin Mesoraco, the young, power-hitting catcher who will finally get a full-time look in Cincinnati. The Diamondbacks dumped some salary while dealing Bell for a young, breathing body. Choate pitched in the New York-Penn League in 2013 at the age of 22 and he isn’t much of a prospect. The Reds dumped Hanigan, who was arbitration-eligible, while getting a 22-year-old left-handed starter, who posted a 2.75 ERA in 26 Double-A starts in 2013 with a 116:50 K:BB in 157.1 innings. While Holmberg wasn’t as sexy as Tyler Skaggs or Archie Bradley within the Diamondbacks system, he could become a solid back of the rotation arm or a Sean Marshall-like relief pitcher for the Reds. The good news for Cincinnati is that Mesoraco gets his shot and Holmberg adds some near-ready pitching depth after the likely departure of Bronson Arroyo via free agency.

Winner: Everyone looks like a winner here, as the deal worked well for all three teams, but the Rays received the most help in assisting the team win in 2013.

Why Did Beane Make That (Michael) Choice?

Texas Rangers get: OF Michael Choice and 2B Chris Bostick

Oakland A’s get: OF Craig Gentry and RHP Josh Lindblom

ChoiceThis seemed like an odd deal for Oakland and GM Billy Beane, as Gentry is arbitration-eligible for the first time this winter and Lindblom has been pretty terrible since being traded from the Dodgers to the Phillies in the 2012 Shane Victorino deal, as he has posted a 5.10 ERA and 1.50 WHIP over 54.2 innings since leaving Los Angeles (2.91 ERA and 1.18 WHIP in 77.1 innings prior to the trade). Maybe a return to the west coast is what Lindblom needs to be a useful reliever, but by getting the elite defensive skills and increasing salary of the light-hitting (.280/.355/.366 in 763 plate appearances), 29-year-old Gentry, and giving up the potential that still exists in the bat of Michael Choice, who is 24 and isn’t arbitration-eligible until 2017, Beane showed that he may be looking beyond three years from now and that he could be putting the A’s in win-now mode. Bostick is a nice second base prospect, having posted a .282/.354/.452 line over 555 plate appearances as a 20-year-old in Low-A in 2013, but the Rangers have quite a few young, up-the-middle prospects (Rougned Odor, Jurickson Profar, and Luis Sardinas) and they don’t seem to have a need there, while the A’s have run Jemile Weeks out of town in a trade with Baltimore and Eric Sogard was very…meh…in 2013 at the major league level. Winning now is important, but it doesn’t seem like the A’s really acquired anyone who can really help them in 2014 to get over the hump.

Winner: Texas Rangers.

The Free Agent Splashes

The Yankees Spend Like Crazy…Again.

Who They Signed: C Brian McCann (five-years, $85 million); OF Jacoby Ellsbury (seven-years, $153 million);

McCannWhy It Matters: Notice that the Yankees have committed nearly $240 million after having been rumored to be on a mission to avoid the $189 million threshold of the payroll luxury tax, while not having signed their All-Star second baseman, Robinson Cano, just yet. And, don’t forget, the team is rumored to be interested in signing Japanese right-hander Masahiro Tanaka, who could be had at a lesser amount after the posting fee was limited to a maximum $20 million bid on Wednesday. McCann is a huge upgrade over the combined .213/.289/.298 triple slash that Yankees’ catchers posted in 2013, while Ellsbury provides great defense and speed as the Yankees try to move on from all of the injuries that suffocated their success this past season. Even if the Yankees are done with the big name signings, including Cano, they should be a better team in 2014.

Twinkies Filled Their Rotation

Who Minnesota Signed: RHP Phil Hughes (three-year, $24 million); RHP Ricky Nolasco (four-year, $49 million);

Why It Matters: The Twins starting pitchers posted a 5.26 ERA and a 1.54 WHIP in 2013, worst in the majors, and the ERA was a whopping 0.45 points higher than the Toronto Blue Jays’ starters (4.81), who finished 29th. Hughes still has youth and potential, but he needs to start tapping into that potential after posting a horrific 5.19 ERA over 29 starts and 145.2 innings. Shockingly, Hughes’ numbers would have made him a solid number three starter for the Twins in 2013…they were that bad. Adding Nolasco was special, but he isn’t an ace. He will likely be the Twins’ Opening Day starter in 2014 by default and he should make the rotation slightly better; although, it couldn’t get much worse.

Kazmir Rejuvenates and Cashes In Athletically

Who Oakland Signed: LHP Scott Kazmir (two-year, $22 million)

Why It Matters: Signing Kazmir to a lucrative contract could lead to another movie about the Oakland A’s after the success of Moneyball. While Kazmir’s resurgence was quite surprising, an eight-figure deal, after making all of one total appearance in the majors in 2011 and 2012 due to severe shoulder woes, was even more surprising. Possessing a mid-90’s fastball and a left arm appears to be all that it took to find a big deal. Kazmir’s story is worthy of attention and praise, but it is a story that needs to be monitored to see if he can maintain the same success in Oakland over the next two seasons. His presence will allow the A’s and Beane to shop LHP Brett Anderson at the winter meetings next week, which could net the club some additional win-now resources.

The Tigers No Longer on the Prowl for a Closer

Who Detroit Signed: RHP Joe Nathan (two-year, $20 million)

Why It Matters: Detroit needed a lockdown closer after shuffling through Jose Valverde, Phil Coke, Jose Veras, and Bruce Rondon at closer before Joaquin Benoit took over and did a nice job over the rest of the season. They got their man after signing Joe Nathan away from the Texas Rangers. Nathan closed 80 games out the last two seasons, while posting a 2.09 ERA and 0.98 WHIP, and at 38 years of age, he doesn’t look to be slowing down after missing the 2010 season due to Tommy John surgery. After dealing Prince Fielder to improve at second base with Ian Kinsler, moving Miguel Cabrera back to first, and plugging Drew Smyly into the rotation (after dealing Fister), the Tigers will have a completely new look in 2014. With their strong rotation, Nathan’s shutdown ability makes them quite dangerous.

Fish Hook Their Catcher and the Red Sox Snag Another

Who Miami Signed: C Jarrod Saltalamacchia (three-year, $21 million)

Who Boston Signed: C A.J. Pierzynski (one-year, $8.25 million)

Why It Matters: With a lot of focus heading towards catcher defense and framing, highlighted by the Rays commitments to Jose Molina and Ryan Hanigan this winter, other clubs continue to look towards offensive-minded catchers, and the Miami Marlins and Boston Red Sox locked down their backstops this week. The Marlins seem to have very little hope for a quick turnaround and Saltalamacchia isn’t going to be the other piece to help Giancarlo Stanton and Miami to an NL East title, but it is a start…as long as they don’t trade him before the 2014 season starts. Pierzynski will be on his fifth organization and, despite being hated by some of his competition, he could be a tremendous asset to the character and chemistry that existed within the Boston World Series clubhouse. I guess he is better to have on your team than to play against him.

 

 

2014 MLB Top 100 Prospects

This article has been revised!!! The most recent version can be found HERE or in a long URL like this: http://thebaseballhaven.mlblogs.com/2014/01/03/2014-mlb-top-prospects-final-revision/

Buxton

1. Byron Buxton, OF, Minnesota Twins; 12/18/1993

Year Age Lg Lev G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS TB
2012 18 2 Lgs Rk 48 189 165 33 41 10 4 5 20 11 19 41 .248 .344 .448 .792 74
2013 19 2 Lgs A-A+ 125 574 488 109 163 19 18 12 77 55 76 105 .334 .424 .520 .944 254
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 10/23/2013.

Buxton is the minor league version of Los Angeles Angels outfielder Mike Trout. He has tools across the board and could continue to move quickly, likely reaching Target Field by the end of the 2014 season. While he isn’t the pure hitter that Taveras could be, Buxton has the skill set that will fill stadiums and force Minnesota into contention…if they could get some solid pitching.

Courtesy: stlouiscardinalsbaseball.com
Courtesy: stlouiscardinalsbaseball.com

2. Oscar Taveras, OF, St. Louis Cardinals; 6/19/1992

Year Age Lg Lev G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS TB
2009 17 DOSL FRk 65 272 237 35 61 13 8 1 42 9 28 36 .257 .338 .392 .731 93
2010 18 2 Lgs Rk 60 260 241 40 73 14 3 8 45 9 13 46 .303 .342 .485 .828 117
2011 19 MIDW A 78 347 308 52 119 27 5 8 62 1 32 52 .386 .444 .584 1.028 180
2012 20 TL AA 124 531 477 83 153 37 7 23 94 10 42 56 .321 .380 .572 .953 273
2013 21 2 Lgs AAA-Rk 47 188 174 25 54 13 0 5 32 5 10 22 .310 .348 .471 .819 82
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 10/23/2013.

Taveras is the best pure hitter in the minors, but he needs to stay on the field to show his true abilities. With Carlos Beltran headed towards free agency, it will be interesting to see how the Cardinals handle Taveras going into the 2014 season. With Matt Adams producing solid numbers in a limited role, it could force Allen Craig to the outfield, which would force Taveras to Triple-A or to center field in place of Jon Jay. Wherever he is, expect big things.

3. Xander Bogaerts, SS/3B, Boston Red Sox; 10/1/1992

Year Age Lg Lev G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS TB
2010 17 DOSL FRk 63 280 239 39 75 7 5 3 42 4 30 37 .314 .396 .423 .819 101
2011 18 SALL A 72 296 265 38 69 14 2 16 45 1 25 71 .260 .324 .509 .834 135
2012 19 2 Lgs A+-AA 127 532 476 71 146 37 3 20 81 5 44 106 .307 .373 .523 .896 249
2013 20 2 Lgs AAA-AA 116 515 444 72 132 23 6 15 67 7 63 95 .297 .388 .477 .865 212
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 10/23/2013.
Year Tm Lg G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS OPS+ TB
2013 BOS AL 18 50 44 7 11 2 0 1 5 1 5 13 .250 .320 .364 .684 88 16
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Generated 10/23/2013.

Bogaerts forced himself into the Red Sox immediate plans and has played a major role for the Sox in the 2013 postseason. The young infielder could take the everyday job at short in 2014 with Stephen Drew reaching free agency, and his production up the middle could make him one of the top fantasy shortstops this side of Troy Tulowitzki.

4. Miguel Sano, 3B, Minnesota Twins; 5/11/1993

Year Age Lg Lev G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS TB
2010 17 2 Lgs Rk-FRk 61 241 212 34 65 16 1 7 29 4 24 60 .307 .379 .491 .870 104
2011 18 APPY Rk 66 293 267 58 78 18 7 20 59 5 23 77 .292 .352 .637 .988 170
2012 19 MIDW A 129 553 457 75 118 28 4 28 100 8 80 144 .258 .373 .521 .893 238
2013 20 2 Lgs AA-A+ 123 519 439 86 123 30 5 35 103 11 65 142 .280 .382 .610 .992 268
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Sano has amazing power and he has maintained his power production as he has climbed the minor league ladder. With Sano and Buxton, the Twins have a new duo that will likely outproduce the numbers that Justin Morneau and Joe Mauer put up in their prime, and with Sano having hit 90 home runs before his 21st birthday in the minors, it will be very hard for the offensive-starved Twins to wait for his massive power ability.

Walker

5. Taijuan Walker, RHP, Seattle Mariners; 8/13/1992

Year Age Lg Lev W L ERA G CG SHO IP H R ER HR BB SO WHIP H/9 SO/9 SO/BB
2010 17 ARIZ Rk 1 1 1.29 4 0 0 7.0 2 3 1 0 3 9 0.714 2.6 11.6 3.00
2011 18 MIDW A 6 5 2.89 18 1 0 96.2 69 33 31 4 39 113 1.117 6.4 10.5 2.90
2012 19 SOUL AA 7 10 4.69 25 0 0 126.2 124 70 66 12 50 118 1.374 8.8 8.4 2.36
2013 20 2 Lgs AA-AAA 9 10 2.93 25 0 0 141.1 112 56 46 11 57 160 1.196 7.1 10.2 2.81
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Generated 10/23/2013.
Year Tm Lg W L ERA G CG SHO IP H R ER HR BB SO WHIP H/9 SO/9 SO/BB
2013 SEA AL 1 0 3.60 3 0 0 15.0 11 7 6 0 4 12 1.000 6.6 7.2 3.00
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Generated 10/23/2013.

Walker is a freakishly gifted athlete as a pitcher, and if he can maintain consistency in repeating his mechanics and release, he could supplant Felix Hernandez as the Mariners’ No.1 starter over the next few seasons. He has tremendous stuff and once he gains a better understanding of how to pitch with it, he will soar. He has very little left to prove in Tacoma and it wouldn’t be surprising to see him start the season with Seattle.

6. Archie Bradley, RHP, Arizona Diamondbacks; 8/10/1992

Year Age Lg Lev W L ERA G CG SHO IP H R ER HR BB SO WHIP H/9 SO/9 SO/BB
2011 18 PION Rk 0 0 0.00 2 0 0 2.0 1 0 0 0 0 4 0.500 4.5 18.0
2012 19 MIDW A 12 6 3.84 27 0 0 136.0 87 64 58 6 84 152 1.257 5.8 10.1 1.81
2013 20 2 Lgs AA-A+ 14 5 1.84 26 2 0 152.0 115 40 31 6 69 162 1.211 6.8 9.6 2.35
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Generated 10/23/2013.

A lot of Bradley’s success had to do with his ability to throw more strikes. He went from walking 5.5 per nine in 2012 to 4.1 in 2013, and if he maintains that type of growth in the upper minors, he’ll be ready for Chase Field in no time. With the stuff that he has, you’d like to see him allow fewer base runners, but there was a time that I doubted Matt Harvey and Clayton Kershaw for the same reasons. I won’t be doing that again.

7. Carlos Correa, SS, Houston Astros; 9/22/1994

Year Age Lg Lev G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS TB
2012 17 2 Lgs Rk 50 204 190 28 49 14 2 3 12 6 12 44 .258 .305 .400 .705 76
2013 18 MIDW A 117 519 450 73 144 33 3 9 86 10 58 83 .320 .405 .467 .872 210
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Correa has a great skill-set, one that prompted a lot of Alex Rodriguez comparisons when he was the No.1 overall pick in the 2012 MLB Draft. Unfortunately, the comparisons may never stop for Correa, who may have to be linked to Buxton, who was taken No.2 overall in the 2012 Draft, over the rest of his career. Fortunately for Correa, he is also capable of All-Star level production, so this won’t become a Sam Bowie versus Michael Jordan issue for the Houston Astros. Correa is likely in for an absolutely incredible breakout in 2014 as the doubles head over the wall and he continues to make solid adjustments at the plate. Like Bogaerts, he could be as elite as they come at shortstop, likely arriving by mid-2015.

8. Francisco Lindor, SS, Cleveland Indians; 11/14/1993

Year Age Lg Lev G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS TB
2011 17 NYPL A- 5 20 19 4 6 0 0 0 2 1 1 5 .316 .350 .316 .666 6
2012 18 MIDW A 122 567 490 83 126 24 3 6 42 27 61 78 .257 .352 .355 .707 174
2013 19 2 Lgs A+-AA 104 464 403 65 122 22 7 2 34 25 49 46 .303 .380 .407 .787 164
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Lindor will have tremendous value for the Indians with his above-average defensive skills, but it won’t stop there. While Lindor won’t be a middle-of-the-order talent like Bogaerts and Correa, he has the skill-set to be a very effective leadoff hitter, while having the contact skills to be a great No.2 hitter, setting the table for Jason Kipnis and Carlos Santana, likely by mid-2014.

Baez

9. Javier Baez, SS, Chicago Cubs; 12/1/1992

Year Age Lg Lev G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS TB
2011 18 2 Lgs Rk-A- 5 18 18 2 5 2 0 0 1 2 0 4 .278 .278 .389 .667 7
2012 19 2 Lgs A-A+ 80 321 293 50 86 13 6 16 46 24 14 69 .294 .346 .543 .888 159
2013 20 2 Lgs A+-AA 130 577 517 98 146 34 4 37 111 20 40 147 .282 .341 .578 .920 299
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Swinging hard and quick, Baez unravels his coiled body and creates impressive power…which comes with impressive strikeout totals, as well. With Starlin Castro signed long-term, Baez is going to likely be moved off of shortstop, but he has the stick to play third or an outfield corner. The Cubs are aggressive in how they handle their prospects, but we’ll have to see if the Theo Epstein regime is going to be wise with the cost-efficiency and service-time issues that could arise by allowing Baez to get some time in at Wrigley in 2014. He could force their hand, though.

10. Addison Russell, SS, Oakland Athletics; 1/23/1994

Year Age Lg Lev G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS TB
2012 18 3 Lgs Rk-A-A- 55 244 217 46 80 10 9 7 45 16 23 48 .369 .432 .594 1.027 129
2013 19 2 Lgs A+-AAA 110 517 442 86 119 29 10 17 60 21 61 125 .269 .369 .495 .865 219
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The A’s were SUPER aggressive with Russell in 2013, starting the season with the California League (high-A) affiliate after getting just 58 at-bats for the club’s low-A squad in 2012 and getting all of 217 at-bats in his first professional season. He did so well in 2013 that he was bumped to Triple-A to assist with Sacramento’s playoff push, and while he was over-matched, it shows just how highly Oakland thinks of him. He may get lost in the dynamic shortstop shuffle, but it wouldn’t be surprising to see Russell in the majors first, producing solid overall numbers and bringing life to the Oakland lineup.

11. Jameson Taillon, RHP, Pittsburgh Pirates; 11/18/1991

Year Age Lg Lev W L ERA G CG SHO IP H R ER HR BB SO WHIP H/9 SO/9 SO/BB
2011 19 SALL A 2 3 3.98 23 0 0 92.2 89 45 41 9 22 97 1.198 8.6 9.4 4.41
2012 20 2 Lgs A+-AA 9 8 3.55 26 2 0 142.0 120 60 56 10 38 116 1.113 7.6 7.4 3.05
2013 21 2 Lgs AA-AAA 5 10 3.73 26 0 0 147.1 143 70 61 9 52 143 1.324 8.7 8.7 2.75
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Generated 10/23/2013.

Gerrit Cole has taken the reigns from Taillon as the Pirates’ No.1 starter, but he does have the skills to help guide Cole and the Bucs to another postseason appearance in 2013, likely joining the rotation mid-season like Cole and developing the final touches on his stuff at the major league level. Taillon doesn’t look to have the ceiling that Cole does, but that doesn’t mean that he isn’t special. The 2013 season was a bit disappointing statistically, so the 2014 season will go a long way in determining the long-term outlook on this young man.

12. Noah Syndergaard, RHP, New York Mets; 8/29/1992

Year Age Lg Lev W L ERA G GF SHO IP H R ER HR BB SO WHIP H/9 SO/9 SO/BB
2010 17 GULF Rk 0 1 2.70 5 0 0 13.1 11 7 4 0 4 6 1.125 7.4 4.0 1.50
2011 18 3 Lgs Rk-A–A 5 2 1.83 13 1 0 59.0 46 14 12 1 18 68 1.085 7.0 10.4 3.78
2012 19 MIDW A 8 5 2.60 27 2 0 103.2 81 41 30 3 31 122 1.080 7.0 10.6 3.94
2013 20 2 Lgs A+-AA 9 4 3.06 23 0 0 117.2 107 48 40 11 28 133 1.147 8.2 10.2 4.75
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Generated 10/23/2013.

The stuff is off the charts, at least the fastball, and with further development of his secondary stuff, Syndergaard will be a tremendous No.2 starter for the Mets. The haul from the R.A. Dickey trade certainly took a major bump upwards when Syndergaard showed such drastic improvement, and after reaching Double-A in 2013 and the injury to Harvey, it wouldn’t be surprising to see the tall right-hander get a shot before the All-Star break in 2014.

13. Robert Stephenson, RHP, Cincinnati Reds; 2/24/1993

Year Age Lg Lev W L ERA G CG SHO IP H R ER HR BB SO WHIP H/9 SO/9 SO/BB
2012 19 2 Lgs A-Rk 3 4 3.18 15 0 0 65.0 54 34 23 6 23 72 1.185 7.5 10.0 3.13
2013 20 3 Lgs A-A+-AA 7 7 2.99 22 0 0 114.1 92 49 38 10 35 136 1.111 7.2 10.7 3.89
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Stephenson’s numbers were absurd in 2013. I saw a start in Dayton that he looked like he was toying with the opposition, but that seems to be the norm for him. He has a tremendous fastball, touching triple-digits several times during the 2013 campaign, and he earned promotions (a quick one from the pitching-deadly California League) by succeeding. The Reds will likely slow down the process and keep him in Double-A most of the 2014 season, but he could be a reliable starter by 2015, just in time for the possible loss of Mat Latos and Johnny Cueto.

14. Albert Almora, OF, Chicago Cubs; 4/16/1994

Year Age Lg Lev G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS TB
2012 18 2 Lgs Rk-A- 33 145 140 27 45 12 1 2 19 5 2 13 .321 .331 .464 .795 65
2013 19 MIDW A 61 272 249 39 82 17 4 3 23 4 17 30 .329 .376 .466 .842 116
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Almora, like Baez, has tools and skills to become an elite talent at the major league level. In a small sample, he showed something that a lot of Cubs’ prospects don’t…plate discipline. With his ability to make solid contact, he looks like a solid top-of-the-order player, but he could very well grow into something much more. If nothing else, Almora will provide Gold Glove defensive ability.

15. Gregory Polanco, OF, Pittsburgh Pirates; 9/14/1991

Year Age Lg Lev G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS TB
2009 17 DOSL FRk 63 261 221 34 59 8 6 0 24 12 33 50 .267 .370 .357 .727 79
2010 18 GULF Rk 53 200 188 21 38 5 1 3 23 19 9 41 .202 .245 .287 .532 54
2011 19 2 Lgs Rk-A- 51 213 179 34 41 4 4 3 35 18 24 35 .229 .322 .346 .669 62
2012 20 SALL A 116 485 437 84 142 26 6 16 85 40 44 64 .325 .388 .522 .910 228
2013 21 3 Lgs AA-A+-AAA 127 536 470 66 134 30 2 12 71 38 52 73 .285 .356 .434 .791 204
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Generated 10/23/2013.

Like the Pirates need another gifted outfielder. With Andrew McCutchen in center and Starling Marte in left, Polanco will likely man right, providing Pittsburgh with three outfielders capable of playing center field while producing solid numbers across the board. Polanco, though, looks like a better all-around player than Marte, showing gap power, speed, and a very good approach at the plate. He may not be an MVP candidate like “Cutch”, but he’ll provide value in Pittsburgh for quite some time as a definitive upgrade over Jose Tabata and Garrett Jones.

Castellanos

16. Nick Castellanos, OF, Detroit Tigers; 3/4/1992

Year Age Lg Lev G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS TB
2010 18 GULF Rk 7 29 24 5 8 2 0 0 3 0 4 5 .333 .414 .417 .830 10
2011 19 MIDW A 135 562 507 65 158 36 3 7 76 3 45 130 .312 .367 .436 .803 221
2012 20 2 Lgs AA-A+ 134 584 537 72 172 32 4 10 57 8 36 118 .320 .365 .451 .815 242
2013 21 IL AAA 134 595 533 81 147 37 1 18 76 4 54 100 .276 .343 .450 .793 240
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Year Tm Lg G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS OPS+ TB
2013 DET AL 11 18 18 1 5 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 .278 .278 .278 .556 51 5
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Castellanos did take a few more walks in 2013, so that is a great step in his development, as his long swing and inability to take a walk was a concern for many prospect graders in the past. He could open the 2014 season as the Tigers’ starting left fielder and he has enough protection in the lineup to be an effective player with Miguel Cabrera and Prince Fielder taking some pressure off of him. It wouldn’t surprise me to see Castellanos win the 2014 AL Rookie of the Year.

17. George Springer, OF, Houston Astros; 9/19/1989

Year Age Lg Lev G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS TB
2011 21 NYPL A- 8 33 28 8 5 3 0 1 3 4 2 2 .179 .303 .393 .696 11
2012 22 2 Lgs A+-AA 128 581 506 109 153 21 10 24 87 32 62 156 .302 .383 .526 .908 266
2013 23 2 Lgs AA-AAA 135 589 492 106 149 27 4 37 108 45 83 161 .303 .411 .600 1.010 295
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Generated 10/23/2013.

Like Castellanos, Springer takes some shots due to his strikeout totals; however, his all-around game could still allow for success at the major league level. Just three home runs shy of posting a 40/40 season in 2013, Springer would have likely had a bigger impact on the Astros winning games than any of the group of Brandon Barnes, J.D. Martinez, L.J. Hoes, Robbie Grossman, and Trevor Crowe that helped Houston lose 111 games in 2013. While it seems unreasonable to expect 40/40 production in the majors, Springer could provide seasons of 25 HR/25 SB annually, which will be quite valuable once the club’s elite prospects join him in Houston and the Astros begin contending in the next few years.

18. Jonathan Gray, RHP, Colorado Rockies; 11/5/1991

Year Age Lg Lev W L ERA G CG SHO IP H R ER HR BB SO WHIP H/9 SO/9 SO/BB
2013 21 2 Lgs A+-Rk 4 0 1.93 9 0 0 37.1 25 11 8 0 8 51 0.884 6.0 12.3 6.38
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Despite taking some medication for ADHD and looking like a potential slider in the 2013 MLB Draft, the Rockies jumped at the chance to draft Gray and his incredible fastball and the results were nothing short of sexy. Coor’s Field will continue to be a question mark when it comes to the ceiling of pitching prospects for Colorado, but I can’t remember a time that the Rockies have had a pitcher like this. Lockdown, shutdown stuff like Gray’s will be very useful if the Rockies are ever going to contend in the NL West. It wouldn’t surprise me to see Gray in the top five at the end of next season, possibly even the mid-season lists.

19. Aaron Sanchez, RHP, Toronto Blue Jays; 4/1/1992

Year Age Lg Lev W L ERA G CG SHO IP H R ER HR BB SO WHIP H/9 SO/9 SO/BB
2010 17 2 Lgs Rk-A- 0 3 2.16 10 0 0 25.0 23 15 6 1 17 37 1.600 8.3 13.3 2.18
2011 18 2 Lgs Rk-A- 3 3 5.30 14 0 0 54.1 53 33 32 4 26 56 1.454 8.8 9.3 2.15
2012 19 MIDW A 8 5 2.49 25 0 0 90.1 64 33 25 3 51 97 1.273 6.4 9.7 1.90
2013 20 FLOR A+ 4 5 3.34 22 0 0 86.1 63 40 32 4 40 75 1.193 6.6 7.8 1.88
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Generated 10/23/2013.

Sanchez is the pitching equivalent to Oscar Taveras: Electric, game-changing stuff…he just can’t stay on the field. In 2013, it was the shoulder, which is always scary when it comes to a pitcher with a high-90’s fastball, that led to Sanchez missing time. Beyond the injuries, the walks are also an issue. The issues are obvious in Sanchez and his inability to reach his ceiling, but the fact that he has the stuff to be a No.1 starter and he is entering his age-21 season, they’re worth holding out for. The Jays will hope that this is the year that he puts it all together.

Dylan Bundy, Baltimore Orioles
Dylan Bundy, Baltimore Orioles

20. Dylan Bundy, RHP, Baltimore Orioles; 11/15/1992

Year Age Lg Lev W L ERA G CG SHO IP H R ER HR BB SO WHIP H/9 SO/9 SO/BB
2012 19 3 Lgs A+-A-AA 9 3 2.08 23 0 0 103.2 67 29 24 6 28 119 0.916 5.8 10.3 4.25
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Generated 10/23/2013.
Year Tm Lg W L ERA G GS CG SHO IP H R ER HR BB SO WHIP H/9 SO/9 SO/BB
2012 BAL AL 0 0 0.00 2 0 0 0 1.2 1 0 0 0 1 0 1.200 5.4 0.0 0.00
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 10/23/2013.

Bundy missed all of the 2013 season after undergoing Tommy John surgery, but he was near the top of everyone’s lists prior to the injury. With the going success rates of the surgery, Bundy could jump right back to where he was when he returns this season. The Orioles will be very cautious with him, but he should be looked at a lot like Stephen Strasburg was – he was an ace-level talent who was hurt, had surgery, and was thought of an ace again once healthy.

21. Kyle Zimmer, RHP, Kansas City Royals; 9/13/1991

Year Age Lg Lev W L ERA G CG SHO IP H R ER HR BB SO WHIP H/9 SO/9 SO/BB
2012 20 2 Lgs A-Rk 3 3 2.04 9 1 1 39.2 39 16 9 1 8 42 1.185 8.8 9.5 5.25
2013 21 2 Lgs A+-AA 6 9 4.32 22 1 1 108.1 91 58 52 11 36 140 1.172 7.6 11.6 3.89
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Generated 10/23/2013.

Zimmer struggled for some time last season before everything just clicked and he was an absolute monster. There is an adjustment period in many prospects, and the Zimmer who was electric and dominant is the pitcher that the Royals and the rest of us should expect going forward. If the Royals are competitive in 2014, Zimmer will be a viable option to guide them to the playoffs down the stretch.

22. Kris Bryant, 3B/OF, Chicago Cubs; 1/4/1992

Year Age Lg Lev G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS TB
2013 21 3 Lgs A–A+-Rk 36 146 128 22 43 14 2 9 32 1 11 35 .336 .390 .688 1.078 88
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Generated 10/23/2013.

Bryant’s long-term position remains a mystery, but wherever he ends up, he will likely be producing All-Star level numbers. The Cubs have quite a few middle infield options (Junior Lake, Javier Baez, Starlin Castro, Arismendy Alcantara, Darwin Barney) and someone will be moved to third (likely Baez), but Bryant at first, left, or right is just as potent. The transition to a different position could lead to some offensive struggles, but the fans on Sheffield Avenue and Waveland Avenue will see quite a few home runs starting sometime in 2014.

23. Mark Appel, RHP, Houston Astros; 7/15/1991

Year Age Lg Lev W L ERA G CG SHO IP H R ER HR BB SO WHIP H/9 SO/9 SO/BB
2013 21 2 Lgs A-A- 3 1 3.79 10 0 0 38.0 36 18 16 2 9 33 1.184 8.5 7.8 3.67
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Generated 10/23/2013.

Appel didn’t sign with the Pirates after being taken in the first round of the 2012 MLB Draft, instead returning to Stanford and getting taken No.1 overall by the Houston Astros in 2013. While Appel is a tremendous talent, he may not be a true No.1, ace-level pitcher at his peak. That doesn’t mean that he can’t be successful, though. He does have great stuff and he is very polished, so he won’t need a whole lot of time in the minors. He will move very quickly, arriving in time to show fans who the Astros have and where Jeff Luhnow and company are taking the franchise.

24. Jonathan Singleton, 1B, Houston Astros; 9/18/1991

Year Age Lg Lev G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS TB
2009 17 GULF Rk 31 119 100 12 29 9 0 2 12 1 18 13 .290 .395 .440 .835 44
2010 18 SALL A 104 450 376 64 109 25 2 14 77 9 62 74 .290 .393 .479 .872 180
2011 19 2 Lgs A+ 128 530 449 68 134 23 1 13 63 3 70 123 .298 .392 .441 .833 198
2012 20 TL AA 131 555 461 94 131 27 4 21 79 7 88 131 .284 .396 .497 .893 229
2013 21 3 Lgs AAA-AA-A 90 367 304 42 70 17 1 11 44 1 59 110 .230 .351 .401 .753 122
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 10/23/2013.

Singleton really disappointed in 2013, having served a 50-game suspension for the use of a drug of abuse and posting some pretty bad numbers upon his return. He does have the talent to be a very productive player, showcasing solid on-base skills and the ability to hit for power in the past. He’ll be just 22 in 2014 and he’ll likely be in Triple-A with George Springer, so it will be interesting to see how they complement each other now, as they are the club’s most ready prospects heading into the season and the future of the Astros’ offense.

Hamilton4

25. Billy Hamilton, OF, Cincinnati Reds; 9/9/1990

Year Age Lg Lev G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS TB
2009 18 GULF Rk 43 180 166 19 34 6 3 0 11 14 11 47 .205 .253 .277 .530 46
2010 19 PION Rk 69 316 283 61 90 13 10 2 24 48 28 56 .318 .383 .456 .839 129
2011 20 MIDW A 135 610 550 99 153 18 9 3 50 103 52 133 .278 .340 .360 .700 198
2012 21 2 Lgs A+-AA 132 605 512 112 159 22 14 2 45 155 86 113 .311 .410 .420 .830 215
2013 22 IL AAA 123 547 504 75 129 18 4 6 41 75 38 102 .256 .308 .343 .651 173
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Generated 10/23/2013.
Year Tm Lg G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS OPS+ TB
2013 CIN NL 13 22 19 9 7 2 0 0 1 13 2 4 .368 .429 .474 .902 148 9
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 10/23/2013.

Hamilton is still a very interesting prospect, despite his poor 2013 season in Triple-A. His speed remains an absolute game-changing tool and it could assist him in becoming an above-average defender as he continues to adjust to life in center field. The question remains: will he hit enough for his speed to be an asset? He did so in a very small sample size this September, but his struggles against the highest level minor league pitching is still of concern. Even if he hits .250/.308/.343 over 500 at-bats, he would be on base about 160 times, which allows him to utilize his speed and, potentially, score a run. It is a far cry from what Shin-Soo Choo provided for the Reds out of the leadoff spot, but if the Reds can’t sign a better alternative, Hamilton will be their Opening Day starter in center.

26. Jorge Soler, OF, Chicago Cubs; 2/25/1992
27. Travis d’Arnaud, C, New York Mets; 2/10/1989
28. Austin Hedges, C, San Diego Padres; 8/18/1992

Royals RHP: Yordano Ventura
Royals RHP: Yordano Ventura

29. Yordano Ventura, RHP, Kansas City Royals; 6/3/1991
30. Corey Seager, SS, Los Angeles Dodgers; 4/27/1994
31. Alex Meyer, RHP, Minnesota Twins; 1/3/1990
32. Lucas Giolito, RHP, Washington Nationals; 7/14/1994
33. Matt Wisler, RHP, San Diego Padres; 9/12/1992
34. Max Fried, LHP, San Diego Padres; 1/18/1994
35. Clint Frazier, OF, Cleveland Indians; 9/6/1994
36. Garin Cecchini, 3B, Boston Red Sox; 4/20/1991
37. Joc Pederson, OF, Los Angeles Dodgers; 4/21/1992
38. Austin Meadows, OF, Pittsburgh Pirates; 5/3/1995
39. Eddie Butler, RHP, Colorado Rockies; 3/13/1991
40. Rougned Odor, 2B, Texas Rangers; 2/3/1994
41. Jackie Bradley, OF, Boston Red Sox; 4/19/1990
42. Kyle Crick, RHP, San Francisco Giants; 11/30/1992
43. Andrew Heaney, LHP, Miami Marlins; 6/5/1991
44. Hunter Harvey, RHP, Baltimore Orioles; 12/9/1994
45. Jesse Biddle, LHP, Philadelphia Phillies; 10/22/1991
46. Mike Foltynewicz, RHP, Houston Astros; 10/7/1991
47. Colin Moran, 3B, Miami Marlins; 10/1/1992
48. Gary Sanchez, C, New York Yankees; 12/2/1992
49. Kolten Wong, 2B, St. Louis Cardinals; 10/10/1990
50. Adalberto Mondesi, SS, Kansas City Royals; 7/27/1995
51. Tyler Glasnow, RHP, Pittsburgh Pirates; 8/23/1993
52. Henry Owens, LHP, Boston Red Sox; 7/21/1992
53. Alen Hanson, 2B/SS, Pittsburgh Pirates; 10/22/1992
54. Bubba Starling, OF, Kansas City Royals; 8/3/1992
55. Jake Odorizzi, RHP, Tampa Bay Rays; 3/27/1990
56. C.J. Edwards, RHP, Chicago Cubs; 9/3/1991
57. Kohl Stewart, RHP, Minnesota Twins; 10/7/1994
58. Marcus Stroman, RHP, Toronto Blue Jays; 5/1/1991
59. Trevor Bauer, RHP, Cleveland Indians; 1/17/1991
60. Julio Urias, LHP, Los Angeles Dodgers; 8/12/1996
61. Lucas Sims, RHP, Atlanta Braves; 5/10/1994

Rangers C: Jorge Alfaro
Rangers C: Jorge Alfaro

62. Jorge Alfaro, C, Texas Rangers; 6/11/1993
63. Rafael Montero, RHP, New York Mets; 10/17/1990
64. Jonathan Schoop, 2B/SS, Baltimore Orioles; 10/16/1991
65. Phillip Ervin, OF, Cincinnati Reds; 7/17/1992
66. Jesse Winker, OF, Cincinnati Reds; 8/17/1993
67. Eduardo Rodriguez, LHP, Baltimore Orioles; 4/7/1993
68. Blake Swihart, C, Boston Red Sox; 4/3/1992
69. Eddie Rosario, 2B, Minnesota Twins; 9/28/1991
70. J.P. Crawford, SS, Philadelphia Phillies; 1/11/1995
71. A.J. Cole, RHP, Washington Nationals; 1/5/1992
72. Erik Johnson, RHP, Chicago White Sox; 12/30/1989
73. James Paxton, LHP, Seattle Mariners; 11/6/1988
74. Lance McCullers, RHP, Houston Astros; 10/2/1993
75. Arismendy Alcantara, 2B/SS, Chicago Cubs; 10/29/1991
76. Miguel Almonte, RHP, Kansas City Royals; 4/4/1993
77. Reese McGuire, C, Pittsburgh Pirates; 3/2/1995
78. Victor Sanchez, RHP, Seattle Mariners; 1/30/1995
79. Matt Barnes, RHP, Boston Red Sox; 6/17/1990
80. Zach Lee, RHP, Los Angeles Dodgers; 9/13/1991
81. Jake Marisnick, OF, Miami Marlins; 3/30/1991
82. Tyler Austin, OF, New York Yankees; 9/6/1991
83. Mason Williams, OF, New York Yankees; 8/21/1991
84. Mike Olt, 1B/3B, Chicago Cubs; 8/27/1988
85. David Dahl, OF, Colorado Rockies; 4/1/1994
86. Anthony Ranaudo, RHP, Boston Red Sox; 9/9/1989
87. Brian Goodwin, OF, Washington Nationals; 11/2/1990

Phillies 3B: Maikel Franco
Phillies 3B: Maikel Franco

88. Maikel Franco, 3B, Philadelphia Phillies; 8/26/1992
89. Delino DeShields, Jr., 2B, Houston Astros; 8/16/1992
90. Alex Colome, RHP, Tampa Bay Rays; 12/31/1988
91. Jimmy Nelson, RHP, Milwaukee Brewers; 6/5/1989
92. Chris Owings, SS, Arizona Diamondbacks; 8/12/1991
93. Trey Ball, LHP, Boston Red Sox; 6/27/1994
94. Joey Gallo, 1B/3B, Texas Rangers; 11/19/1993
95. Dorssys Paulino, SS, Cleveland Indians; 11/21/1994
96. Rafael De Paula, RHP, New York Yankees; 3/24/1991
97. Clayton Blackburn, RHP, San Francisco Giants; 1/6/1993
98. Jorge Bonifacio, OF, Kansas City Royals; 6/4/1993
99. Michael Choice, OF, Oakland Athletics; 11/10/1989
100. Luis Heredia, RHP, Pittsburgh Pirates; 8/10/1994

Why Is Pitching So Dominant…Again?

There were seven no-hitters in Major League Baseball in 2012, a number that won’t be touched in 2013 due to only two occurring to this point, barring a complete hitting meltdown. However, pitching has dominated MLB since the big-headed monsters of the steroid era have begun to disappear from the game. Since 2000, pitching has taken over the game:

Season H HR R BB% K% AVG OBP SLG
2013 34209 3833 16555 7.9 19.7 0.254 0.318 0.398
2012 42063 4934 21017 8.0 19.8 0.255 0.319 0.405
2011 42267 4552 20808 8.1 18.6 0.255 0.321 0.399
2010 42554 4613 21308 8.5 18.5 0.257 0.325 0.403
2009 43524 5042 22419 8.9 18.0 0.262 0.333 0.418
2008 43972 4878 22585 8.7 17.5 0.264 0.333 0.416
2007 44977 4957 23322 8.5 17.1 0.268 0.336 0.423
2006 45073 5386 23599 8.4 16.8 0.269 0.337 0.432
2005 43992 5017 22326 8.2 16.4 0.264 0.330 0.419
2004 44522 5451 23375 8.6 16.9 0.266 0.335 0.428
2003 44057 5207 22978 8.5 16.4 0.264 0.333 0.422
2002 43272 5059 22408 8.7 16.8 0.261 0.331 0.417
2001 43869 5458 23197 8.5 17.3 0.264 0.332 0.427
2000 45244 5692 24969 9.6 16.5 0.270 0.345 0.437

Davis3The numbers show a pretty dramatic increase in strikeouts since 2000 with a drop in walks, batting average, on-base percentage, and slugging percentage. While it could be blamed on the lack of juicers in the game, there are still position players posting absurd offensive numbers, like Miguel Cabrera, Chris Davis, and Mike Trout. But what is it that has changed the game?

Pitchers, for their part, have seen increase almost across the board in their production:

Season IP K/9 BB/9 HR/9 BABIP LOB% ERA FB Vel.
2013 35437.1 7.52 3.02 0.97 0.293 73.4 3.88 91.9
2012 43355.1 7.56 3.05 1.02 0.293 72.5 4.01 91.8
2011 43527.1 7.13 3.11 0.94 0.291 72.5 3.94 91.7
2010 43305.1 7.13 3.28 0.96 0.293 72.2 4.08 91.5
2009 43272 6.99 3.46 1.05 0.295 71.9 4.32 91.4
2008 43357.2 6.83 3.39 1.01 0.296 71.4 4.32 90.9
2007 43425.2 6.67 3.33 1.03 0.299 70.7 4.47 91.1
2006 43258 6.59 3.30 1.12 0.298 70.9 4.53 N/A
2005 43232.1 6.38 3.17 1.04 0.292 71.7 4.29 N/A
2004 43394.1 6.60 3.36 1.13 0.293 71.4 4.46 N/A
2003 43335 6.40 3.30 1.08 0.291 71.2 4.40 N/A
2002 43268.2 6.53 3.38 1.05 0.289 71.7 4.28 N/A
2001 43287.1 6.74 3.29 1.13 0.292 71.2 4.42 N/A
2000 43244.1 6.53 3.80 1.18 0.296 70.2 4.77 N/A

Strikeouts per nine are up, walks are down, left on base percentage is up, and ERA is down. All of this could coincide with the fact that fastball velocity is up (since Pitch/FX stats have become available), but there could be other reasons for such dramatic increases in pitching skills, like fielding:

Season Errors Fielding % RZR OOZ
2013 2246 0.985 0.832 12160
2012 3008 0.984 0.830 14054
2011 3053 0.983 0.837 14317
2010 3030 0.983 0.825 12895
2009 2856 0.984 0.833 13494
2008 2965 0.984 0.829 12593
2007 2988 0.984 0.820 11222
2006 3066 0.983 0.823 10928
2005 3060 0.983 0.744 11138
2004 3166 0.983 0.735 10641
2003 3170 0.983 0.742 10372
2002 3221 0.982 N/A N/A
2001 3357 0.982 N/A N/A
2000 3447 0.981 N/A N/A

Andrus2For those of you unfamiliar with RZR and OOZ, FanGraphs defines them this way:
RZR: via The Hardball Times: “Revised Zone Rating is the proportion of balls hit into a fielder’s zone that he successfully converted into an out. Zone Rating was invented by John Dewan when he was CEO of Stats Inc.  John is now the owner of Baseball Info Solutions, where he has revised the original Zone Rating calculation so that it now lists balls handled out of the zone (OOZ) separately (and doesn’t include them in the ZR calculation) and doesn’t give players extra credit for double plays (Stats had already made that change). We believe both changes improve Zone Ratings substantially. To get a full picture of a player’s range, you should evaluate both his Revised Zone Rating and his plays made out of zone (OOZ).”

OOZ: Plays made out of zone.

It appears that with fewer errors, a slight increase in fielding percentage, and more plays made outside of the fielder’s zone, tied in with more strikeouts and more runners left on base (likely due to fewer errors and more plays being made), could also be a reason behind pitcher dominance.

Velocity and defense go a long way in stopping the opposition, and with more teams accepting the value of defense (like Arizona dealing Trevor Bauer for Didi Gregorius and Texas giving a huge contract to Elvis Andrus), offensive production could continue to decline. When the likes of Gregorius (.705 OPS), Andrus (.632 OPS), and Andrelton Simmons (.659 OPS) are playing defense and not hitting at league average levels, that also helps the opposition pitching in a way. Is it worth giving up offense for defensive gain when the strong fielder is such a weak hitter? Getting an out and giving an out is equal to zero, right?

Kershaw3Considering that the top 10 starting pitchers in ERA (Clayton Kershaw, Matt Harvey (R.I.P.), Jose Fernandez, Adam Wainwright, Anibal Sanchez, Felix Hernandez, Yu Darvish, Hiroki Kuroda, Max Scherzer, and Patrick Corbin) have an average age of 27.5, and that’s including the outliers (Kuroda at 38 and Wainwright at 31), there will likely be more years of pitching dominance on the horizon. Regardless of the video game-like numbers that a select few offensive players will produce, if or when top starting pitching prospects, like Dylan Bundy, Archie Bradley, Taijuan Walker, and Robert Stephenson finally reach the Majors and reach their potential (hopefully), we could feel additional breezes in the stands  from the bats striking nothing but air as we watch more 3-1 baseball games.

Mid-Season Top 50 Prospects

Courtesy: stlouiscardinalsbaseball.com
Courtesy: stlouiscardinalsbaseball.com

Below you will find the Mid-Season Top 50 prospects in baseball (as of 6/26/2013). This list is an update to my offseason Top 100 list and excludes players that will, likely, earn enough service time to not qualify as a prospect after the 2013 season (Jurickson Profar, Wil Myers, Gerrit Cole, Trevor Bauer, and others from the original list have been excluded. Feel free to compare.).

1) Oscar Taveras, STL, OF

2) Byron Buxton, MIN, OF

3) Miguel Sano, MIN, 3B

4) Xander Bogaerts, BOS, SS

5) Archie Bradley, ARZ, RHP

6) Taijuan Walker, SEA, RHP

7) Jonathan Singleton, HOU, 1B

8) Jameson Taillon, PIT, RHP

9) Carlos Correa, HOU, SS

10) Addison Russell, OAK, SS

11) Francisco Lindor, CLE, SS

12) Gregory Polanco, PIT, OF

13) Javier Baez, CHI-C, SS

14) Noah Syndergaard, NYM, RHP

CIN RHP Robert Stephenson
CIN RHP Robert Stephenson

15) Robert Stephenson, CIN, RHP

16) Jorge Soler, CHI-C, OF

17) Christian Yelich, MIA, OF

18) Mark Appel, HOU, RHP

19) Aaron Sanchez, TOR, RHP

20) Jonathan Gray, COL, RHP

21) Albert Almora, CHI-C, OF

22) Nick Castellanos, DET, OF

23) Dylan Bundy, BAL, RHP

24) Gary Sanchez, NYY, C

25) George Springer, HOU, OF

26) Alen Hanson, PIT, SS

27) Travis d’Arnaud, NYM, C

28) Clint Frazier, CLE, OF

29) Kris Bryant, CHI-C, 3B

30) Taylor Guerrieri, TB, RHP

31) Max Fried, SD, LHP

32) Garin Cecchini, BOS, 3B

33) Billy Hamilton, CIN, SS

34) Austin Hedges, SD, C

NYY RHP Rafael De Paula
NYY RHP Rafael De Paula

35) Yordano Ventura, KC, RHP

36) Kolten Wong, STL, 2B

37) Carlos Martinez, STL, RHP

38) Danny Hultzen, SEA, LHP

39) Rafael Montero, NYM, RHP

40) Rafael De Paula, NYY, RHP

41) Eddie Rosario, MIN, 2B

42) Anthony Ranaudo, BOS, RHP

43) Kyle Zimmer, KC, RHP

44) Maikel Franco, PHI, 3B

45) Adalberto Mondesi, KC, SS

46) Jonathan Schoop, BAL, INF

47) Kyle Crick, SF, RHP

48) Michael Choice, OAK, OF

49) Brad Miller, SEA, SS

50) Roberto Osuna, TOR, RHP

Honorable Mention: Tyler Austin (NYY, OF); Mason Williams (NYY, OF); Henry Owens (BOS, LHP); Alex Meyer (MIN, RHP); Stryker Trahan (ARZ, C); Jesse Biddle (PHI, LHP); David Dahl (COL, OF); Josh Bell (PIT, OF); Rougned Odor (TEX, 2B); Jorge Alfaro (TEX, C); Joey Gallo (TEX, 1B/3B); Lewis Brinson (TEX, OF); Jake Marisnick (MIA, OF); Chris Stratton (SF, RHP); Delino DeShields, Jr. (HOU, 2B); Max Muncy (OAK, 1B); Tyler Glasnow (PIT, RHP); Henry Urrutia (BAL, OF); Tyrell Jenkins (STL, RHP); Jesse Winker (CIN, OF); Matt Davidson (ARZ, 3B);


//

Promotion Worthy Prospects

After Miguel Sano was promoted to Double-A on Sunday by the Minnesota Twins, it brought to mind several other prospects who deserve a promotion due to their dominance at their current level. Below, you’ll find ten prospects who need or deserve a bigger challenge:

StephensonRobert Stephenson, RHP, Cincinnati Reds

Year Age Tm Lg Aff W L ERA GS IP H R ER HR BB SO WHIP H/9 BB/9 SO/9 SO/BB
2013 20 Dayton MIDW CIN 5 3 2.97 12 66.2 52 25 22 4 17 85 1.035 7.0 2.3 11.5 5.00
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 6/12/2013.

When you see that 2.97 ERA, some would say that isn’t as dominant as what guys like Dylan Bundy or Archie Bradley have posted over the last two seasons; however, Stephenson has been absolutely dominant over his last six starts, posting a 0.98 ERA, a 0.65 WHIP, and a 50:5 K:BB over 36.2 innings. That is redefining dominance. Stephenson has now made 20 starts for Low-A Dayton and the only thing holding him back from a promotion seems to be the fact that he would be heading to the California League if he was promoted to the next level. The Reds could challenge him and see how he does, they did put Tony Cingrani there in 2012 (where he dominated), or move him straight to Double-A next year, similar to what they did with Daniel Corcino in 2012. Regardless, Stephenson looks like the Reds new top prospect, posting numbers that would make Cy Young winners blush.

BaezJavier Baez, SS, Chicago Cubs

Year Age Tm Lg Aff G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS TB
2013 20 Daytona FLOR CHC 57 254 230 45 67 17 4 13 44 6 11 60 .291 .339 .570 .908 131
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 6/12/2013.

Blame it on the four home runs that Baez hit on June 10th or blame it on the fact that his numbers are absolutely insane for a middle infielder…truly, you can blame it on the fact that Starlin Castro looks like a lost puppy, but the Chicago Cubs need to move Javier Baez up to Double-A. Certainly, Baez isn’t perfect. His plate discipline leaves a lot to be desired and he has made 26 errors in 56 games for Daytona, but what he lacks in harnessing moving balls, he makes up for with his tremendous bat speed, power, and overall skills when he actually connects. In eight June games, Baez is hitting .500/.559/1.167 with five home runs and 15 RBI. He’s on fire and he has the talent to be moved quickly. Baez needs to be challenged in Double-A and the Cubs need to see how he handles advanced pitching to help determine whether he could stay at short or move to an outfield corner.

DePaula1Rafael De Paula, RHP, New York Yankees

Year Age Tm Lg Aff W L ERA GS IP H R ER HR BB SO WHIP H/9 BB/9 SO/9 SO/BB
2013 22 Charleston SALL NYY 6 2 2.43 12 59.1 36 16 16 3 22 91 0.978 5.5 3.3 13.8 4.14
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 6/12/2013.

The only thing dumber than the Yankees still having De Paula in Low-A at this point, is the fact that society didn’t find a way to stop Kanye West and Kim Kardashian from procreating. De Paula has dominated all season for Charleston, and at the age of 22, he is a man among boys in the Sally League. His 13.8 K:9 is absurd and his mid-90’s fastball is nearly unfair to the over-matched teenagers and organizational depth cesspools of the lower minors. With Andy Pettitte and Hiroki Kuroda nearing the end of the road, it is time for the Yankees to be aggressive with another prospect. De Paula needs to be moved to Tampa (High-A) as soon as possible, and, due to his stuff, early dominance, and age, an attempt at Double-A shouldn’t be out of the question.

BuxtonByron Buxton, OF, Minnesota Twins

Year Age Tm Lg Aff G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS TB
2013 19 Cedar Rapids MIDW MIN 59 274 228 60 78 14 8 7 47 26 39 46 .342 .435 .566 1.001 129
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 6/12/2013.

It isn’t very often that a 19-year-old in his first full season of professional ball would get moved up a level by July, but the No.2 overall pick in the 2012 MLB Draft is creating quite a stir in the prospect world. His power, speed, and plate discipline are beyond his years and Buxton appears to be ready for and worthy of a different challenge. The Twins are typically very patient and slow with their prospects, but they’ve already promoted Sano and their major league team (28-33) continues to tread water.

Preston Tucker, OF, Houston Astros

Year Age Tm Lg Lev Aff G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS TB
2013 22 Lancaster CALL A+ HOU 64 284 253 52 79 17 1 11 58 3 25 37 .312 .373 .518 .891 131
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 6/12/2013.

The Astros are in a pretty miserable place when it comes to their ability to contend, but they seem to have a tremendous rebuilding plan in place and their recent drafts and trades are perfect examples of what Jeff Luhnow has taken to Houston. They appear to have a nice player in their 2012 7th round pick, a senior signing out of Florida that is showing an excellent approach at the plate in High-A. While Lancaster is a notorious hitter’s paradise, as is most of the California League, the plate discipline, gap power, and consistency (.328 vs. LHP, .307 RHP) are impressive, and he would be a nice addition to Double-A, where he could join…

George Springer, OF, Houston Astros

Year Age Tm Lg Aff G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS TB
2013 23 Corpus Christi TL HOU 61 271 228 51 69 18 0 18 50 18 35 77 .303 .405 .618 1.024 141
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 6/12/2013.

Springer is also worthy of a promotion within the Houston organization and it wouldn’t be a surprise if he is wearing an Astros’ jersey by the end of the 2013 season; however, with Justin Maxwell coming back from his injury, a promotion to Triple-A is likely Springer’s first stop. The 36 extra-base hits and 18 stolen bases show the tools that he possesses, but his long swing could continue to cause outrageous strikeout totals, especially once he reaches the show. The No.11 overall pick in the 2011 MLB Draft out of UConn will be an asset to the Astros at some point.

PuelloCesar Puello, OF, New York Mets

Year Age Tm Lg Aff G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS TB
2013 22 Binghamton EL NYM 53 221 197 40 65 11 2 13 46 17 14 46 .330 .403 .604 1.007 119
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 6/12/2013.

There are four simple words why Puello needs promoted: The Mets Offense Sucks. The slugging right fielder has been on fire over the last ten games, hitting .463/.500/.976 with three doubles, six home runs, 17 RBI, and five stolen bases. There is one issue that may become huge within his development: he was listed on the Biogenesis documents; however, the time it will take between appeals and court cases will make that an unlikely scenario in harming his prospect status, which is getting more impressive with each swing.

myersWil Myers, OF, Tampa Bay Rays

Year Age Tm Lg Aff G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS TB
2013 22 Durham IL TBR 60 274 237 41 67 12 2 13 54 7 29 67 .283 .358 .515 .872 122
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 6/12/2013.

Call me Captain Obvious but the Rays would be a better team by plugging Myers into a lineup that has won 11 of their last 16 and are slowly creeping up the AL East standings, even while their ace, David Price, is recovering from an extended absence due to tricep soreness. After struggling with his plate discipline in the early part of the season, Myers has improved his numbers in June (albeit in just 10 games), while increasing his power, having hit four home runs in just 41 at-bats this month. With seven players with 25 or more RBI already this season, who would go to make room for Myers? Myers will make an impact at some point this season, regardless of the current roster’s success.

Arismendy Alcantara, 2B/SS, Chicago Cubs

Year Age Tm Lg Aff G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS TB
2013 21 Tennessee SOUL CHC 63 265 228 30 66 14 1 9 30 16 26 54 .289 .364 .478 .842 109
5 Seasons 371 1542 1405 195 399 57 27 24 174 76 101 291 .284 .332 .414 .747 582
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 6/12/2013.

Alcantara is another good middle infield prospect within the Cubs organization. He is playing second and short in Double-A right now, but regardless of where he ends up, Alcantara will provide a little punch and speed for the rebuilding lovable losers. After having success at every stop during his minor league career, Alcantara should move up to see how he can handle Triple-A pitching, getting him that much closer to helping a starved Cubs lineup.

PimentelCarlos Pimentel, RHP, Texas Rangers

Year Age Tm Lg Aff W L ERA GS IP H R ER HR BB SO WHIP H/9 BB/9 SO/9 SO/BB
2013 23 Frisco TL TEX 7 2 2.96 12 70.0 49 25 23 8 21 80 1.000 6.3 2.7 10.3 3.81
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 6/12/2013.

This is Pimentel’s third season in Double-A and he appears to finally mastered it, this time as a starter, after pitching well in a relief role in 2012 for Frisco. Still just 23 years old, Pimentel looks like another solid prospect again for a Rangers team that seems to always be in need of pitching help, whether due to ineffectiveness or injuries on the major league roster. Pimentel is posting excellent strikeout numbers and appears to be very difficult to hit. At 6’3″, 180 pounds, he has the frame to be a useful body in Texas, and he deserves a look in Triple-A before he gets a spot start of a longer look in Arlington.