In fantasy baseball, it is impossible to have all of your teams loaded with the top-tier talent necessary to win every season. Even keeper leagues have players at the top every year who struggle with injuries. You need depth, you need to find a diamond in the rough, and you need to take gambles in order to win. For that reason, you need to know some players who may fly under the radar. This is a list of 12 players who may be available a little later than you think in your baseball drafts who could ruin the lives of your fiercest competitors.
Pollock had all of 46 plate appearances in 2016 due to injuries. It isn’t so much that he is a legitimate sleeper as much as how low he may rank on several draft boards due to his extended absence. Remember, this is a guy who hit .315/.367/.498 with 39 doubles, 20 home runs, and 39 steals in 2015. He was the Yang to Paul Goldschmidt‘s Ying, worthy of an early selection last season. Don’t let him fall too far and reap the benefits if he falls into your lap.
Gomez struggled so mightily last season that the Houston Astros released him on August 18th. Two days later, Gomez signed with the Texas Rangers and promptly put up the type of line that Houston was looking for during his time there, erupting to a .284/.362/.543 line with eight home runs and 24 RBI in just 33 games – he had five home runs and 29 RBI in 85 games for Houston. He signed for one-year and $11.5 million to prove himself capable of All-Star production in his age-31 season. He is playing in the right place for another offensive outburst.
Buxton has really disappointed a lot of fans and prospect fanatics with a pretty abysmal start to his career. He has struck out 162 times (with just 29 walks) in 469 plate appearances, which has led to a putrid .220/.274/.398 triple-slash in his brief career. While others will look at those numbers and run, you shouldn’t let the prospect fatigue and struggles lead you astray. Look at Buxton’s September from 2016:
While the strikeouts are still worrisome, this supposed clone of a young Eric Davis showed power and the abilities that made people drool. He was given the job for the month of September and ran with it, which is downright scary with his speed tool and the BABIP right where most speedsters have theirs. Look for a breakout in 2017.
Tomas was just a part of my story about overpaid Cuban free agents, so why would I have him on a sleeper list, you ask? Because Tomas has some tools that you can’t find everywhere, namely his power. He tore things up in the second half of 2016, posting a .913 OPS, which is impressive for a guy who walked in just 5.5% of his plate appearances. It meant that the 18 bombs in the second half – and 31 overall – could be overlooked due to how ridiculously horrific the Diamondbacks have handled him. With Jake Lamb locked in at third, it appears that Tomas is officially a slugging outfielder, and his numbers could continue to climb with the return of the previously mentioned Pollock to the Arizona lineup.
Over his first 351 career plate appearances (2012-2015), Perez was pretty useless, posting a .235/.251/.307 line with 15 doubles, three triples, one homer, and six stolen bases. Then, at age 25, Perez got an opportunity in Milwaukee, and, boy, did he make the most of it. In the second half of the 2016 season, this previously unknown, organizational depth player went on to post a .281/.313/.449 triple-slash with nine home runs, 14 doubles, two triples, and 24, count ’em…24, stolen bases. He’d total 13 bombs and 34 steals on the season, playing third, second, and outfield. While no one knows whether he will put up similar numbers, Perez has some value, even if it is only in deep mixed leagues. That position flexibility is Zobrist-like, while the production isn’t too far off, either. He would be a nice addition in late rounds for depth purposes, though the addition of Travis Shaw at third could lead to Perez being a one-year wonder.
Cotton was a 20th round pick by the Dodgers in 2012, acquired by the A’s in the Rich Hill and Josh Reddick deal last season. He had long had solid numbers in the minors, striking out 10 per 9 IP over the course of 490+ minor league innings. Upon reaching the majors for the first time in September, Cotton posted video game numbers over five starts with a 2.15 ERA, 0.82 WHIP, 23:4 K:BB, and 6 H/9. It is anyone’s guess as to whether the 5’11” right-hander will continue to miss bats at that rate, but you don’t want to be the one who watches someone else benefit from the gamble. He’s penciled in as Oakland’s No. 4 starter, so continue to monitor him this spring.
If only this guy could stay healthy…which is exactly why he is a sleeper. After making only 20 starts in 2016, Paxton is the type of guy that Brett Anderson would like to be and every other pitcher avoids becoming; however, his final 11 starts were pretty impressive, injury-free, and worthy of fantasy acknowledgment. He posted a 71:9 K:BB over 67.2 innings, a 3.19 ERA and 1.05 WHIP, and a .235 BAA. Seattle made a lot of deals this winter to become contenders, and Paxton could be a “guy” who improves enough or continues to pitch like he did last season, to help make that happen.
Norris had an interesting year, spending a lot of time rebuilding stamina after beating cancer between the 2015 and 2016 season. Upon sticking in the Tigers rotation (from August 9th onward), the young left-hander posted a 3.04 ERA and 55 punchouts in 56.1 innings. While the 1.37 WHIP and 19 walks in the same 56.1 innings is worrisome, Norris has shown the ability to make it work. He will turn just 24 in April and he has to beat Matt Boyd and Mike Pelfrey to earn the No. 5 spot, but, if he wins it, he has the stuff and the teachers (Justin Verlander and Jordan Zimmermann) to learn on the job.
Run in terror if you’d like, but don’t forget to look at the 11.3 K:9 that Ray posted in 2016. That led to a whopping 218 strikeouts in 174.1 innings. Sure, the 4.90 ERA is gross. Sure, the 1.47 WHIP is disgusting. There is something here. You don’t miss that many bats without having great stuff. This will be Ray’s age-25 season and he will take another step forward because he won’t be posting a .355 BABIP in 2017 and he won’t be losing 15 games again if he throws it by so many opposing hitters in 2017. Keep in mind, Ray’s FIP was 3.76 in 2016. Jose Peraza, 2B/OF, Cincinnati Reds
Everyone is going to be on the Peraza bandwagon, with valid reasons. When the Reds traded Brandon Phillips (and millions of dollars that “small-market” teams don’t have) to the Atlanta Braves, it made fantasy baseball fans celebrate. Peraza posted a .324/.352/.411 triple-slash and 21 stolen bases in just 72 games and 256 plate appearances. With Peraza and Billy Hamilton around, the Reds could look a lot like the St. Louis Cardinals of the 1980’s, when Vince Coleman and Willie McGee ran wild on the league. They just have to get on base for that to happen, and Peraza has been more of a hit-tool and speed talent than an on-base machine.
After getting hit in the head on June 18, Panik battled some concussion symptoms, having played through them by passing concussion protocol through MLB. After the beaning, Panik hit just .215/.305/.346. Prior to that, he was hitting .263/.326/.411. Obviously, there could be something in the Justin Morneau area here that could scare you away from wanting Panik on your fantasy team, but he showed a couple of statistics that would warrant a rebound. Overall, including the times that he was apparently dazed, Panik walked more than he struck out in 2016, while posting career highs in homers (10) and RBI (67). In addition to that, Panik had a woeful .245 BABIP. While the league average is typically around .300, Panik’s was incredibly low. There are always outliers and it appears that Panik was one of them in 2016. Expect a rebound in 2017.
The Reds have a lot of interesting young pitchers. Finnegan was, prior to Anthony DeSclafani‘s return from injury, the only Reds’ pitcher worth owning in fantasy leagues. Like any young pitcher, there were growing pains…lots of them; however, it wasn’t all Finnegan’s fault. The Reds had Finnegan paired with Ramon Cabrera in 12 of his 31 starts and Cabrera was ranked 113th out of 114 catchers in pitch framing. Whether that is something you consider or not, you should know that he should have Devin Mesoraco back there again, barring another injury, in 2017. In addition to the potentially damning battery mate in 2016, Finnegan was able to change something in his approach down the stretch, throwing a changeup more often and posting some ridiculous numbers over his final seven starts: 1.93 ERA, 1.15 WHIP, 47:16 K:BB, 37.1 IP, .199 BAA. Sure, the Reds will be one of the worst teams in MLB in 2017…unless they have players like Finnegan continue to grow while on the job. Consider adding him in late rounds and be willing to bail on him if he goes through battles of inconsistency in the middle of the year.
As more and more teams look for young, controllable talent, it becomes necessary for baseball fans to become acquainted with the prospects within their system. Not only are these players capable of becoming the future stars of their teams, but they are also the chips that could be cashed in for more “ready” talent to get your team to the next level. As a fan, not a scout, I’ve compiled the Top 100 Prospects in Major League Baseball for your enjoyment. Get to know the following players:
Over the next several weeks, The Baseball Haven will be creating season previews for all 30 MLB teams. You’ll find their projected records (based on PECOTA records from Baseball Prospectus, as of 2/15/2015), each team’s top three players (based on Steamer WAR projections from FanGraphs), and some valuable notes on each team, including likely bounce-back candidates, potential breakout players or fantasy sleepers, as well as a look back at offseason transactions which led to each team’s projections. Stop back frequently to see where your favorite team ranks!
2015 Projected Record: 70-92 (5th in AL Central, 29th in MLB)
When the Twins signed Ricky Nolasco to a four-year, $49 million deal last winter, he was expected to anchor a staff that was downright awful in 2013 (5.26 team ERA and the 29th ranked rotation ERA of 4.81). Nolasco never met those expectations, going just 6-12 with a 5.38 ERA and 1.52 WHIP over 27 starts and 159 innings, complaining of an elbow injury three months into his horrible performance. Needless to say, with Nolasco’s contract and the Twins “small-market” financial situation, he isn’t going to be traded or forced into the bullpen; however, he won’t need to be, as the 2015 season will likely see a huge improvement. A .351 BABIP (.312 career) is an easy first qualifier to that statement. Additionally, his FIP was 4.30 in 2015, which shows that it wasn’t quite as horrific as the ERA showed. While he won’t ever be an ace, he could settle in nicely within the middle of the rotation as an innings-eating veteran as the Twins slowly add Alex Meyer and Jose Berrios to the mix in the coming season or seasons.
Though he has parts of two seasons and 788 plate appearances under his belt, Arcia will be just 24 in May. He already has 33 doubles, 34 home runs, and 100 RBI on his resume, but it’s the 244 strikeouts and 31 percent strikeout rate that some may focus on. Sure, he strikes out way too much, but there are positives in his game. He obviously has big power, which is huge for the Twins when you consider that the face of the franchise and payroll paper weight, Joe Mauer, offers so little power production. Arcia, obviously a free-swinger, saw slight improvements in his walk rate in 2014, as well, improving from 6.1 percent in 2013 to 7.6 percent last season. His ISO would have ranked in the top 15 in MLB in 2014, as well, so Arcia appears on his way to being an offensive asset for a team that will see quite a few positive changes in production in the coming seasons, as the arrival of Miguel Sano and Byron Buxton to the major league roster will help to make the Twins an offensive juggernaut, and Arcia will help in that charge.
Offseason Overview: The Twins added more veteran leadership to the team this winter, signing OF Torii Hunter to return in right field, while adding RHP Ervin Santana to shore up the top of the rotation, which was lacking in production outside of Phil Hughes’ breakout last season. While the club lost a couple of bullpen arms to free agency, they weren’t really getting much out of them (Anthony Swarzak and Matt Guerrier). While the Twins didn’t go crazy in spending this offseason, they added value without crippling their future, as they are paying Santana slightly more than what they are paying Nolasco per season, while only signing Hunter to a one-year deal.
#MNTwins Phil Hughes in 2014 2.65 FIP, 11.63 K/BB, & 1.130 WHIP Cliff Lee in 2008 (began dominating) 2.83 FIP, 5.00 K/BB, & 1.110 WHIP
The Verdict: The Twins only added two major pieces this winter to a team that finished last in the division. Hunter is a nice stopgap in right and will be gone soon to open up another spot for the Twins’ youngsters. The team has a tremendous farm and a very solid core of talent in Dozier, Hughes, Santana, Arcia, and Kennys Vargas to build around; however, it won’t be enough to get this team out of the cellar in 2015. They should be a little better than they were in 2014, even though their PECOTA record suggests an identical record, as they hope to get a better idea of what they have on their MLB roster, while getting looks at Sano, Buxton, Meyer, Berrios, and Trevor May over the course of the 2015 season. This will appear to be another lost season by the end of 162 games, but it will go a long way in the future of the franchise, and this will likely be a better team that what they’re projected to be.
Bryant is a mashing star in the making for the Cubs. He is an athletic player, and while there are questions about whether he can handle third defensively, there aren’t any questions about his ability to hit. He’ll be a monster producer for Theo and Co. for years to come. He doesn’t have anything left to prove in the minors, but he’ll likely spend some time in Triple-A to maintain his service time in Chicago.
Say what you’d like to about Buxton’s inability to stay on the field – it still doesn’t tell me that he’s lost any tools. However, if he has another lost season, it may be time to re-evaluate that view. Power, speed, and elite centerfield defense make him valuable in fantasy and real-life baseball. He has more tools than Lowe’s.
Correa, like Buxton, missed most of 2014 due to injury. He was having a monster season, and it doesn’t really matter that it was happening at Lancaster in the California League because he is capable of that type of production. It will be interesting to see if his injury leads to any loss of speed, but the large, powerful shortstop deserves the benefit of the doubt, much like Buxton, because of his gifts.
With Starlin Castro, Arismendy Alcantara, and Javier Baez already in the system, it was pretty shocking to see the Cubs acquire another elite middle infielder when they finally traded Jason Hammel and Jeff Samardzija to the Oakland Athletics. You can never have too much elite talent, and talent is talent, so it can play anywhere. Russell could be the long-term shortstop due to his ability to handle the position defensively, and it wouldn’t be surprising to see him in Chicago around the same time that Bryant makes his debut for the Cubs.
Elite power makes Gallo a future star and the strikeouts make him a future star who strikes out a lot. There isn’t much to be concerned about here. In the hapless offensive era that MLB is currently enduring, power is power and teams are craving it. While a strikeout, as Moneyball showed, is a wasted at-bat, the potential production that Gallo offers is titillating. He’ll continue to rise through the ranks, and, like Bryant, questions about his long-term position don’t matter much due to the bat. He’ll have a spot somewhere.
Lindor doesn’t have the size and power that Correa offers, but his glove is what will make him most valuable to the Indians. That isn’t to say that he is clueless at the dish, though, as Lindor has solid gap power, a very advanced approach at the plate, and usable speed on the bases. He’s a perfect top-of-the-order option, and if he isn’t in Cleveland by June 15th, Chris Antonetti and Terry Francona are doing it wrong.
Kyle’s younger brother has all the makings of a studly offensive shortstop. He may grow out of the position, if he hasn’t already, but his impressive numbers would certainly make the Dodgers lineup that much more feared. It will be interesting to see how far the Dodgers go in negotiations with Hanley Ramirez with Seager waiting in the wings.
Another Twins’ prospect with a lost season, Sano missed all of 2014 due to Tommy John surgery. Sano will be 22 in 2015, and while he’ll need to work on timing and get the rust off, he should arrive sometime during the upcoming season. He is a powerful, right-handed bat, and with the Twins looking to head in a new direction after firing Ron Gardenhire, a quick promotion of their future would be pretty intriguing to their fans – but he needs to prove that he’s ready first.
Soler is an absolute monster. He has insane power and showcased it during his brief time in Chicago last season. He, like Buxton, just needs to stay on the field to reach his full potential. He should open the 2015 season as the Cubs starting right fielder, likely a favorite to win the NL Rookie of the Year award.
The training wheels were still on Giolito in 2014, but it’s likely a good thing that the Nationals are being so cautious because this kid is likely better than Stephen Strasburg ever was. Sure, he hasn’t reached the majors and he, like Strasburg, has already had elbow surgery, but he’s a huge kid with huge stuff, and he’s capable of dominating nightly. My guess is he starts the season in Double-A and will be up with Washington by July 1st. He’s breaking free of the chains and will show just how impressive he is.
Injuries and inconsistencies plagued Bradley in 2014. His walks were up significantly and they continue to be what holds him back from being an elite arm; however, I’ve said that before about people, namely Matt Harvey. He has the stuff…he just needs to harness it to reach his potential.
Urias should be a senior in high school in 2015…only he isn’t, as he will be in Double-A working on becoming a future elite arm for the Dodgers. His numbers are impressive, but then you see that he’s just 17 and has struck out 11.2 per nine over his first 142 innings and it becomes that much more eye-opening. He is mature beyond his years, mentally and with his stuff, and he’s a player to monitor due to his age, stuff, and insane ceiling.
I’m not buying his fall from grace in college. He could have been abused and he could have a poor attitude, but none of those things are going to change the fact that Rodon’s stuff is wicked. His slider is a 100 on a 70 point scale, so if he isn’t able to make it as a starter, he’ll be a dominant relief pitcher. People have questioned the future of other White Sox left-handers and their long-term roles in the past, and Chris Sale says that those people are dumb.
Do you think that this guy prays nightly for the Dodgers to trade him or another outfielder on their roster? If you didn’t think that he broke out as a star at some point in 2012 or 2013 in the minors, he showed up to Triple-A last year and showed more power (I know the league is notorious for it) and a better approach at the plate. He has power, speed, and he can play all three outfield positions. He would be a tremendous target for anyone trying to match-up with Andrew Friedman and the Dodgers in an offseason deal. He just needs a job to get things going.
Bundy lost all of the 2013 season to Tommy John surgery and he pitched well in his return last season, though he wasn’t nearly as dominant as he was in 2012. It’s all part of the process and he dealt with a lat muscle injury during the 2014 season, so he needs some time. He was handled much like Giolito was during his first full season (2012), but you can’t really save an arm that way – he needs to rebuild stamina and prove that he still has the stuff to be a future ace, which I’m banking on.
Gray has the task of becoming a star pitcher within the Rockies’ system, while maintaining a level of dominance once he reaches Coor’s Field. It won’t be easy, but he has the stuff to make it happen. His overall numbers weren’t eye-popping in 2014, but he stayed healthy and maintained the electricity on his fastball and slider, which are the keys to his ability to reach his ceiling. It will be interesting to see if the Rockies keep him away from Colorado Springs and return him to Double-A to start the 2015 season, as the PCL can be hellacious on the mental state of young pitchers.
“Thor” wasn’t alone in having injuries and being ineffective in the world of prospects in 2014, but it was still an underwhelming season. His strikeouts per nine fell and his walks rose a bit, but the most alarming item was how hittable he was. With his stuff, you’d expect more, but he was pitching in Triple-A at the age of 21, so he deserves a bit of a break. He’ll start back there in 2015 and show that he’s better than that, very quickly, and reach New York before the All-Star break.
Glasnow is his own worst enemy. He has only allowed FIVE hits per nine innings in his career, but it’s the 4.4 walks per nine that are worrisome. It stems from an electric fastball that he needs to control to become even better than the 1.94 ERA and 1.04 WHIP over 274 career innings have shown. He could be better than Gerrit Cole when all is said and done.
Stephenson took a step back in 2014 by allowing more walks and home runs than at any point in his career. He spent the whole season in Double-A and he’s still young enough to rebound, but the questions about the “straightness” of his fastball could be the reason that he was greeted so unforgivingly by his opponents. The Reds need to see an improvement due to the possible departures of Johnny Cueto, Mat Latos, and Aroldis Chapman to free agency after the 2015 season – someone needs to be in their rotation!
Stewart has incredible stuff, but, like many other Twins’ prospect, dealt with an injury in 2014. Stewart struggled with the dreaded “shoulder soreness” that cost him several starts, and the Twins will hope that he gets back on track in 2015 and can remain injury-free. An upper-90’s fastball was his calling card coming out of high school, and he’ll need to regain the strength in that shoulder to keep his stock this high (or higher).
A quick-rising arm out of Oklahoma State, Heaney was able to get to the Marlins within 24 months of being drafted. He has a fastball that can touch the mid-90’s and a very good slider. He likely won’t ever replace Jose Fernandez as the Marlins’ ace, but he can become a very useful arm right behind him in the rotation. A developing changeup is likely his key to success.
Harvey and Giolito were able to battle a couple of times during their time in the SAL in 2014, and Harvey was capable of matching him. If that doesn’t tell you what Harvey is capable of, I don’t know what will. He could easily be where Dylan Bundy is on this list, quite capable of becoming a better long-term option, but he, like so many others, was shut down due to an injury, as Harvey dealt with an elbow strain. If he can rebound from the arm injury, he’ll head to High-A and stay on the fast track to the majors.
Alfaro is a free-swinging, athletic catcher with very good power, and an even more powerful throwing arm. It wouldn’t be surprising for this young man to get comps to Ivan Rodriguez due to climbing the ranks in the Rangers system and being so capable on both sides of the dish, but he likely won’t be the hitter that “Pudge” was. That doesn’t make him any less worth some hype, though. He’ll likely spend some more time in Double-A before a quick promotion to Triple-A, but he won’t be up for good until 2016.
Norris finally reached his potential in 2014, and it led to the young left-hander pitching at four levels, including the majors. His strikeout rate was a career-best, and the walks were down, as were the hits. He really seemed to figure it out, and it wouldn’t be all that surprising to see Norris get a long, long look in spring training.
He doesn’t hit the upper-90’s, but Owens knows how to pitch. He can locate his pitches and keep hitters off-balance. While many would link him to Tom Glavine due to that, but it’s the awkward angle that seems to get the best of his opposition. As he continues to climb the ranks, you’ll need to watch to see if his stuff or his motion is what is the cause for the impressive totals to this point.
At the halfway point of the 2014 season, it is time to take a look at some of the top prospects who are still hanging out on the farm developing their trade. Below, you will find the top 50 mid-season prospects for the 2014 season, with links to their statistics and a brief summary of their outlook. Enjoy. Share. Love.
1. Byron Buxton, OF, Minnesota Twins: Wrist injuries have hurt him this season, but the tools are still there to be a five-tool stud.
2. Kris Bryant, 3B, Chicago Cubs: The power is incredible, but not nearly as incredible as the overall numbers. Will he end up at third or the outfield? It doesn’t really matter where he ends up, he’s a star.
3. Carlos Correa, SS, Houston Astros: Correa’s season has been destroyed by a broken leg after he destroyed opposing pitchers in the California League. He was just about ready for a promotion to Double-A, so the timing was quite unfortunate. He remains a future star in Houston.
4. Addison Russell, SS, Chicago Cubs: It doesn’t matter who he plays for, Russell can hit, hit for power, show patience at the dish, and field his position. While the landing spot of the recent trade leads to a lot of questions, Russell’s overall skills could make him the best option at short for Chicago.
5. Javier Baez, SS, Chicago Cubs: The power and bat speed are tools that all others envy, but until Baez makes some adjustments with his all or nothing approach, he isn’t the top shortstop prospect in the minors – but where he ends up with a crowded Cubs’ system means little if he doesn’t start making more consistent contact and taking a few more pitches.
6. Francisco Lindor, SS, Cleveland Indians: He may not possess the power that the other prospects offer ahead of him, but Lindor will have plenty of value for the Indians, showcasing an elite glove, solid speed, an excellent approach, and more pop than you’d expect based on his frame (5’11”, 175 pounds).
7. Lucas Giolito, RHP, Washington Nationals: The fastball and curveball, right now, could dominate at the major league level. If he can stay healthy, he could supplant Stephen Strasburg as the Nats ace, not because Strasburg is aging – he is capable of being better.
8. Jon Gray, RHP, Colorado Rockies: Gray still has the fastball and slider that could dominate and he continues to refine the change. Just because he’s a Rockies’ pitcher, he shouldn’t be discounted. He has the stuff to throw the Coors effect out the window.
9. Dylan Bundy, RHP, Baltimore Orioles: The injury is damning but the results and stuff seem to be back already. Bundy’s velocity isn’t there, but the command is there, which is typically the last thing to return after TJ surgery. Four plus pitches and pitching intelligence make Bundy a frontline starter for the O’s.
10. Miguel Sano, 3B, Minnesota Twins: Sano is going to miss the entire 2014 season due to TJ surgery. His power is elite and he should get a long look next spring for a Twins club that is desperate for some offense.
11. Joey Gallo, 3B, Texas Rangers: The power was considered an 80 and it’s there. The plate discipline, however, has shown up and made Gallo an absolutely scary talent, especially when you consider the hitter-friendly nature of his home ballpark if he stays in Texas. Can he stay at third? Another guy who it shouldn’t matter for due to the bat playing anywhere.
12. Robert Stephenson, RHP, Cincinnati Reds: With three pitchers set to reach free agency after the 2015 season, Stephenson appears to be a solution, especially with strong results as he continues to climb through the Cincinnati system.
13. Archie Bradley, RHP, Arizona Diamondbacks: The injury led to some stumble here, but Bradley, if healthy, just needs to get a firm grasp on his command to be a No.1 starter. It wasn’t always elite results for Matt Harvey and Gerrit Cole, so don’t sell him short due to the numbers this season.
14. Julio Urias, LHP, Los Angeles Dodgers: He’s 17 and in the California League dominating hitters. Urias has stuff and command to be a front-of-the-rotation arm, but with projection involved, the sky is the limit. Everything could get better for him as he matures.
15. Noah Syndergaard, RHP, New York Mets: Yet another injury-ravaged arm in 2014, “Thor” should be on the mound for the Mets at some point by the end of the season to gain some experience. He should be a very good No.2 starter for years to come, featuring electric stuff and top notch command.
16. Corey Seager, SS, Los Angeles Dodgers: A slugging shortstop, who may not stay at the position, in a system that continues to develop and acquire elite talent, Seager would be talked about a lot by teams who didn’t have Yasiel Puig and Clayton Kershaw around. Now, with Urias dominating at such a young age, Seager continues to not get the praise he deserves for the skills. California League or not, 1.037 OPS at the age of 20 is nothing to sneeze at.
17. David Dahl, OF, Colorado Rockies: A five-tool talent in Colorado…we’ve seen that before with Carlos Gonzalez and it’s nice. Dahl has the same type of potential.
18. Alex Meyer, RHP, Minnesota Twins: He’s a large man with No.2-No.3 stuff that could be No.1 stuff if he continues to show the type of command that he has in 2014. With the improvements that he has shown this season, he should be higher, but the shoulder issues that he had scare me off a bit.
19. Joc Pederson, OF, Los Angeles Dodgers: Pederson would likely be starting for half of MLB this season. Instead, he is depth due to the presence of Puig, Andre Ethier, Matt Kemp, and Carl Crawford. The strikeouts are up a bit this season, but he is showing more power, speed, and patience (which is confusing but the walks are up).
20. Hunter Harvey, RHP, Baltimore Orioles: Harvey will likely move very quickly for a high school arm, as he has shown electric stuff in his first full season for the O’s Low-A affiliate. Along with Dylan Bundy and Kevin Gausman, Harvey gives Baltimore one of the most, if not the most, prolific arms in the minors.
21. Blake Swihart, C, Boston Red Sox: A switch-hitting catcher with some pop and solid plate discipline skills who is getting better after a jump to Double-A, Swihart has established himself as one of the top catching prospects in the game, redefining his previous outlook with an excellent season.
22. Henry Owens, LHP, Boston Red Sox: While Owens isn’t going to replace Jon Lester at the top of the Boston rotation anytime soon, he should settle in as a very useful arm, capable of owning opposing batters with a strong fastball and very, very good change from the left side.
23. Austin Hedges, C, San Diego Padres: Hedges’ offensive game still needs a lot of work, but he could step behind the plate and be an effective game manager tomorrow. Could he hit enough to be an everyday catcher? Well, Ryan Hanigan has…and Yadier Molina wasn’t always the offensive monster that he is today. Things can change. He’s young enough to get the complete package together, but even if he doesn’t hit, he’s a Gold Glove catcher.
24. Daniel Norris, LHP, Toronto Blue Jays: Norris has jumped to Double-A after dominating the Florida State League in his first 13 starts of the season. He has the stuff to be an ace, and this ranking appears to be much lower than what he deserves considering the stuff and results, but there are a lot of solid arms ahead of him.
25. Tyler Glasnow, RHP, Pittsburgh Pirates: The Pirates have a lot of very good, young arms in their system, and Glasnow could be the best if he finds a way to limit the walks. He’s big with big stuff, and just harnessing it would make him a top 10 prospect.
26. Arismendy Alcantara, 2B, Chicago Cubs: It’s unfortunate that it has to be repeated, but Alcantara’s future position in Chicago will be decided at some point between the Starlin Castro/Addison Russell/Javier Baez/Kris Bryant shuffle between second, third, and short, while Alcantara’s recent move to the outfield (he has played 10 games in center) could be a sign of the demise of Junior Lake, and the solution for the crowd – as far as how it impacts this very talented, 22-year-old speedster.
27. Kohl Stewart, RHP, Minnesota Twins: Likely to move slow due to the organizational philosophy, the Twins haven’t had a power arm like this that they drafted and developed as far back as I can remember. He is working on his secondary stuff in the Midwest League this season, so the numbers don’t show dominance like the stuff suggests. He’s still just 19 and he will be a huge part of the Twins system, settling in nicely behind Alex Meyer as a No.2 starter.
28. Aaron Sanchez, RHP, Toronto Blue Jays: Sanchez would likely be pitching in Toronto right now if he had the ability to harness the stuff. Instead, he has walked 55 in 92.1 innings as of July 8. If he can grasp some concept of command, he could be the top pitcher on this entire list. As is, he’s a work in progress and a huge chip if the Blue Jays were to go all-in despite their recent tumble in the AL East.
29. Jameson Taillon, RHP, Pittsburgh Pirates: The results haven’t always matched the hype, but we’ll have to wait another year to see how Taillon’s stock fluctuates given his TJ surgery that has forced him to miss the entire 2014 season.
30. J.P. Crawford, SS, Philadelphia Phillies: Crawford has jumped to the Florida State League after a solid run in the Sally League, showing a tremendous approach for a 19-year-old at either level. He has surprising gap power and tremendous speed and he could be the next Jimmy Rollins in Philadelphia with a slightly better approach and a little less pop.
31. Raimel Tapia, OF, Colorado Rockies: Tapia’s ceiling is anyone’s guess, but he’s a 20-year-old in his first attempt at full-season ball, posting an .830 OPS with 19 stolen bases and 27 extra-base hits (as of July 8). He can barrel up practically anything and he could develop power with his 6’2″, 160 pound frame. He could be better than Dahl if everything clicks, but the worst case scenario could be a Dexter Fowler at his peak as his norm.
32. Jorge Alfaro, C, Texas Rangers: A catcher who can run, hit for extreme power, and throw absolute seeds from behind the dish aren’t the norm in baseball, which makes Alfaro a future stud. He has some holes in his swing, but he is just 21 and he has a huge ceiling due to the power and defensive prowess.
33. Albert Almora, OF, Chicago Cubs: Almora hasn’t lived up to the offensive expectations this season, but he still brings a lot to the table with his elite defensive skills in center. After playing in only 61 games in Low-A last season due to injuries, the Cubs were aggressive in assigning the 20-year-old to the High-A Florida State League. He hasn’t been totally over-matched, but an improvement in his production would keep him as an option in the cluttered Cubs’ future.
34. Raul Adalberto Mondesi, SS, Kansas City Royals: Mondesi is an interesting prospect due to the bloodlines and the fact that he is just 18 (until July 27) and he is playing in the High-A Carolina League in the Royals system. It’s the defensive skills and the speed that make him capable of being elite. While he likely won’t develop the power that Russell, Baez, and Correa bring to the prospect list, he can utilize that speed in the same way that Billy Hamilton has for the Cincinnati Reds to become a factor in all facets of the game.
35. Jesse Winker, OF, Cincinnati Reds: Winker will be a left fielder due to his arm, but he has the hit tool, the power, and the patience to be a very useful player in Cincinnati. He may have several seasons of All-Star production, while settling in as a productive, sweet-swinging lefty in the middle of the Reds’ order.
36. Braden Shipley, RHP, Arizona Diamondbacks: Shipley has a solid fastball and change already, but he has hit a bump with the numbers in the hitter-friendly California League. He has very little experience as a pitcher (he was a former shortstop), but still projects as a mid-rotation starter for the D-backs…if Kevin Towers doesn’t trade him because he hates young players (huge generalizations are always fun).
37. Hunter Dozier, 3B, Kansas City Royals: What seemed like a reach in the 2013 MLB Draft looks to be another wise decision by Dayton Moore and Company in K.C. Dozier looks to be the long-term solution at third with Mike Moustakas failing like a man with no arms trying to remove corn from his teeth. You’d like to see more power from a future corner man, but Dozier could transfer some of those doubles into bombs as he continues adjusting to the wooden bat throughout his maturation.
38. Clint Frazier, OF, Cleveland Indians: Frazier has Baez-like bat speed, which could result in huge amounts of power as he matures. The red-headed stepchild of the Tribe system, Frazier has shown glimpses of his potential while striking out in large quantities as a 19-year-old in full season ball. The Indians would be wise to continue being aggressive with him, allowing him to make adjustments and becoming the potential All-Star, a title that his bat could very well carry him to.
39. Jose Berrios, RHP, Minnesota Twins: Berrios could be the best of the group between himself, Meyer, and Stewart, but he doesn’t get as much love, likely, due to his size. Just touching six feet, Berrios falls into the “short pitcher” label that has haunted the likes of Yordano Ventura, Carlos Martinez, Johnny Cueto, and Pedro Martinez, but stuff will outweigh the oppression, and Berrios has plenty of it.
40. Dalton Pompey, OF, Toronto Blue Jays: Pompey has made huge strides this season in his production, showing his typical speed and solid plate discipline, while driving the ball more consistently. It has led to a promotion to Double-A (where he has struggled) for the 21-year-old center fielder. He looks like a nice piece for Toronto to build around, especially if they lose Colby Rasmus to free agency after the season (though, Pompey won’t be called upon just yet for that role in 2015).
41. Mark Appel, RHP, Houston Astros: Appel has had difficulty adjusting to the pitching methods that Houston employs in the minors, but maybe it’s an attitude thing more than a stuff thing…or an injury. Who knows at this point, but the Astros should be concerned if the stuff is there and the results are this horrific. He’s here because of that stuff, but he needs to get things going before he becomes a bust…yes…already.
42. Luis Severino, RHP, New York Yankees: The Yankees have a prospect! Severino isn’t just a hype-machine type of guy, he has a fastball that can touch 97 with a slider and a change that could be above-average. The 6’0″, right-hander will battle the “small” label, but the stuff could be special.
43. Nick Kingham, RHP, Pittsburgh Pirates: A future mid-rotation, innings-eater with solid stuff who is close to making an impact, Kingham may get lost in the Cole, Taillon, and Glasnow hype, but he should be a very useful arm for the Pirates in his own right.
44. Stephen Piscotty, OF, St. Louis Cardinals: Piscotty looks to be a potential clone of Allen Craig, possessing impressive contact skills without taking many walks, while not striking out absurd amounts, and not showcasing power numbers that would make them an ideal corner bat. Still, Piscotty can double his way into credibility, and he will be a nice option to play alongside Oscar Taveras for several seasons in St. Louis.
45. A.J. Cole, RHP, Washington Nationals: Cole has rebounded with his return to Washington’s system. He didn’t take too kindly to his time in the California League for the Oakland A’s, but he still has the stuff of a potential No.2 or No.3 starter. He isn’t Giolito by any means, but he has legit stuff and may not get the love that he deserves due to the flip-flopping in trades the last couple of seasons.
46. Brandon Nimmo, OF, New York Mets: Nimmo’s on-base skills make him the Joey Votto of the minor leagues. He has control over his at-bats, which isn’t the norm for most 21-year-old position players in Double-A. Still, the Mets have to hope that he develops power along with the patience, as they are in desperate need of impact talent at the major league level.
47. Nick Williams, OF, Texas Rangers: This kid can hit. He may not have a clue about how he can barrel up the ball, as the strikeouts show, but Williams has the talent to become an All-Star level outfielder due to his tools, athletic ability, and successful aggressiveness. There is power in his game, as well as speed, but he will settle in as a corner outfielder in Texas, though, there could be some severe learning curves.
48. Josh Bell, OF, Pittsburgh Pirates: Bell is a switch-hitting corner outfielder who can hit for power from both sides, he has a strong grasp of the strike zone, and he has rewarded the Pirates, who made a $5 million investment in him after choosing the Texas-native in the 2nd round of the 2011 MLB Draft, with impressive production after an injury-filled start to his career. He should see some time in Double-A this season, while turning 22 in August.
49. Matt Wisler, RHP, San Diego Padres: Wisler’s numbers in the Pacific Coast League are pretty horrific, but he’ll be reaping the benefits of pitching in San Diego in due time. Mostly working on his change this season, Wisler continues to work his way to the majors, and the results don’t matter as much as continued health and innings. He should be a solid No.2 or No.3 for the Padres in coming seasons.
50. D.J. Peterson, 3B, Seattle Mariners: Peterson’s overall numbers were likely aided by playing at Inland Empire in the California League, but he was a top selection in the 2013 MLB Draft and is continuing his offensive outburst after a recent to Double-A. The Mariners could use a productive right-handed hitter, but his future is likely not at third with Kyle Seager becoming an All-Star caliber player for Seattle. He could be a first baseman or the Mariners could give him a look in left, but they may need to cover him up with an elite-level defensive center fielder.
Spring statistics don’t really mean much to anyone, that is, of course, unless those numbers are being used to determine a position battle. I like to see young players who are getting long looks and veterans coming off of injuries prove their health and worth by admiring their feasting on lesser competition. While there are many out there that think that spring training is a waste of time and that the statistics don’t mean anything, they do mean a little something – especially to these players. (Statistics as of 3/20/2014)
Nick Castellanos, 3B, Detroit Tigers
.396/.412/.667, 19 H, 7 2B, 2 HR, 16 RBI, 2 SB, 5:2 K:BB in 48 AB
Why Spring Matters for Castellanos: The rookie third baseman is going to need to pick up some of the offensive production that was lost when the Tigers traded Prince Fielder to the Texas Rangers for a non-Arlington-version of Ian Kinsler. Kinsler has a career .242/.312/.399 line away from the spacious confines of the Ballpark at Arlington and a .304/.387/.511 line at home. Comerica Park is NOT Globe Life Park in Arlington, and with the injury to Jose Iglesias (who may or may not be offensively capable), the Tigers need more players to step up to allow Miguel Cabrera to be an MVP candidate again in 2014. Castellanos doesn’t have the prospect shine of Byron Buxton or Xander Bogaerts, but he is going to hit. He always has. The fact that he is hitting while re-adjusting to playing third base, having been switched to the outfield just two years ago from the hot corner, is a positive sign. Additionally, he just turned 22 at the beginning of March. Castellanos may never hit 30 home runs and he may struggle to hit .300 due to contact and discipline questions, but if the Tigers are going to maintain solid offensive production, they’ll need this young man to hit the way that he has this spring. There may be some growing pains, but this production is very encouraging.
Dustin Ackley, OF, Seattle Mariners
.457/.490/.696, 21 H, 6 2B, 1 3B, 1 HR, 11 RBI, 1 SB, 6:3 K:BB in 46 AB
Why Spring Matters for Ackley: After hitting .304/.374/.435 in the second half of 2013 (208 plate appearances), Ackley deserved a long look this spring. When the Mariners signed Robinson Cano and Corey Hart and traded for Logan Morrison, it was worrisome that the M’s could have squeezed their former top pick the way that they have their current middle infielders with the Cano signing. An already crowded, though hideous, outfield could still be impacted if Morrison and Hart man the corners with Justin Smoak at first, but the hope for all baseball enthusiasts is that Ackley gets 500 at-bats while playing a single position, something that the former top prospect hasn’t had an opportunity to accomplish in his very shifty career. The month of March has been very kind to Ackley and he should be locked into an everyday role, especially with Franklin Gutierrez out for the year (not shocking) and Michael Saunders floundering last season so badly. His gap power and on-base skills will make him a surprisingly valuable asset in the Mariners push towards contention in 2014.
Mike Moustakas, 3B, Kansas City Royals
.450/.521/.875, 5 2B, 4 HR, 16 RBI, 1 SB, 6:6 K:BB in 40 AB
Why Spring Matters for Moustakas: Moustakas’ career appeared nearly dead when the Royals signed a perfect platoon partner, Danny Valencia, to pair up with the former top prospect. Then, Moustakas went and played winter ball and worked on his swing…and now this. Maybe it was the fire under the sphincter that Moose needed to get his career on track, maybe the alterations were enough, or maybe he’s a late bloomer like the man that he replaced at the hot corner, Alex Gordon. Gordon was nearly out of the league until a breakout in 2011 at the age of 27, but Moustakas, 25, doesn’t deserve to be given up on just yet, either. Perhaps Moustakas has found the swing that led to 36 home runs and a .999 OPS at the age of 21 in 2010. He may still have some issues against the toughest of left-handed pitchers, but this could be the year.
Billy Hamilton, CF, Cincinnati Reds
.325/.413/.450, 13 H, 2 2B, 1 HR, 5 RBI, 9 SB, 12 R, 6:6 K:BB in 40 AB
Why Spring Matters for Hamilton: He’ll never replace Shin-Soo Choo and his ability to get on base, but when Hamilton gets on base, he’s nearly a lock to score. I am not sure how he managed to hit a home run, as the Reds should be instituting push-ups like Willie Mayes Hayes from the great American classic Major League. Hamilton’s wheels will make him a game-changing talent until an injury is to arise. It is highly unlikely that he’ll hit at this rate in 2014, but even a .250/.310/.325 line would afford him enough opportunities on the base paths to score close to 100 runs while stealing 50 or more bases. It may not seem mathematically realistic, but you need to see Billy run in person to gain an understanding of his actual speed. The walks and contact rate is encouraging, and while Great American Ballpark doesn’t have the thin air of the desert, it is still a launching pad – Hamilton just needs to keep the ball on the ground to better utilize his legs and to avoid the push-ups.
Madison Bumgarner, LHP, San Francisco Giants
0.00 ERA, 0.71 WHIP, 17 IP, 10 H, 16:2 K:BB
Why Spring Matters for Bumgarner: Spring doesn’t really matter much for Bumgarner, I just hope that people see this and realize that he is capable of winning the 2014 National League Cy Young award. The 2014 season is his age-24 season and he already has incredible numbers. His hits per nine fell to a career low in 2013 (6.5) and his strikeouts per nine were a career high (8.9). The dominance in his 17 spring innings will be what you’ll see in 2014. I wouldn’t be surprised if he stole the award from Clayton Kershaw. There weren’t eight pitchers in the NL better than him, regardless of the Cy Young voting.
Hector Santiago, LHP, Los Angeles Angels
2.76 ERA, 1.04 WHIP, 16.1 IP, 11 H, 19:6 K:BB
Why Spring Matters for Santiago: Thanks to Joe Blanton being terrible and the Angels minor league system being even worse, Santiago was a lock for the rotation when he was acquired from the White Sox in the Mark Trumbo deal. Santiago, though, is a very interesting pitcher in 2014. He has some friendly ballparks in the American League West and he has the stuff to post nearly a strikeout per inning. Add in an impressive offense and Santiago could be one of the more surprising No.4 starters in baseball. He has shown the strikeout stuff and how hard he is to hit this spring, and if he can cool the walks a bit, which have always been an issue for him, the 26-year-old will continue to be effective for the Halos.
Carlos Martinez, RHP, St. Louis Cardinals
1.76 ERA, 0.72 WHIP, 15.1 IP, 8 H, 9:3 K:BB
Why Spring Matters for Martinez: The Cardinals just aren’t fair. Joe Kelly, who only went 9-3 with a 2.28 ERA over 15 starts in 2013, is battling one of the club’s former top prospects for the No.5 spot in the Cards’ rotation. Nicknamed “Little Pedro” due to his stature and stuff being similar to future Hall of Fame right-hander Pedro Martinez, this 22-year-old Dominican future star has shown just how unhittable he is when he can manage to control his impressive arsenal. Many will wonder if his best long-term role will be the bullpen due to injury risks and how his stuff plays up in short bursts, but Martinez is much more valuable over 200 innings, and the Cardinals continue to have the depth to plug him into the rotation and reap the benefits of their minor league system. Martinez won’t look like Michael Wacha did down the stretch last season, but that is because he’ll be making a name for himself on his own in 2014.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 Tabata, Garrett Jones, and Travis Snider parade that has provided very little value over the last several seasons.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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. .