Don’t Sleep on These 12 Sleepers for 2017

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
Pollock should return to All-Star status after missing most of 2016. Courtesy: CBS Sports

A.J. Pollock, OF, Arizona Diamondbacks

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.

Carlos Gomez, OF, Texas Rangers

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
Buxton still has the tools that made you fall in love. Don’t run away now. Courtesy: ESPN

Byron Buxton, OF, Minnesota Twins

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:

Months
G GS PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS TB BAbip
29 29 113 101 24 29 6 2 9 22 1 10 38 .287 .357 .653 1.011 66 .370
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 3/4/2017.

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
Tomas can’t take a walk, but you don’t need to with power. A healthy lineup around him could lead to more power. Courtesy: Peter Gammons

Yasmany Tomas, OF, Arizona Diamondbacks

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.

Hernan Perez, 2B/3B/OF, Milwaukee Brewers

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
Did you know who he was before September? Be honest…Keep an eye on him, but don’t go crazy. Courtesy:sacbee.com

Jharel Cotton, RHP, Oakland Athletics

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.

James Paxton, LHP, Seattle Mariners

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.

Daniel Norris, LHP, Detroit Tigers

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.

Robbie Ray, LHP, Arizona Diamondbacks

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

peraza
There could be a lot of this happening in Cincinnati. Courtesy: Getty Images

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.

Joe Panik, 2B, San Francisco Giants

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.

Brandon Finnegan, LHP, Cincinnati Reds

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.

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2015 Season Previews: Seattle Mariners

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!

Seattle Mariners

Courtesy: MLB.com
Courtesy: MLB.com

2015 Projected Record: 87-75 (2nd in AL West, 6th in MLB)

Manager: Lloyd McClendon (87-75 in one season with Seattle, 423-521 in six seasons overall)

Top Three Players: 2B Robinson Cano (5.1), RHP Felix Hernandez (4.7), 3B Kyle Seager (4.1)

Bounce-back Player: LHP James Paxton

Paxton missed 102 games last season with a shoulder strain, but, upon returning, he was lights out, posting a 3.19 ERA and 1.31 WHIP over 62 innings and 11 starts, including the stinker in Toronto on 9/22 (2.2 IP, 9 R, 8 ER). He had the same injury that Reds RHP Johnny Cueto had in 2013, but Cueto came back to toss a career-high 243.2 innings in 2014 – so, this shouldn’t hold Paxton back from taking off again. Still, he has made only 17 starts in his brief career, and he’ll rebound from his injury-plaged 2014 and become the No.2 option behind Felix Hernandez in the Mariners’ rotation.

Zunino is much better than that .199 average, and you'll LOVE the power. Courtesy: mlbtraderumors.com
Zunino is much better than that .199 average, and you’ll LOVE the power.
Courtesy: mlbtraderumors.com

Fantasy Player to Watch: C Mike Zunino

Zunino should have most people’s eyes already thanks to his 22 home runs in 2014, but many will be terrified of his .199/.254/.404 line and 33.2 percent strikeout rate. Once upon a time, there was a guy who hit. 227 with 24 home runs and 56 RBI…that was the 2012-version of Mike Napoli, and, though Napoli took a few more pitches than Zunino has in his brief career, we need to remember that this kid will still be just 24 on Opening Day. Zunino is slick with the glove behind the plate and can mash, so he’ll carve out a nice, long career. Get on board and watch him improve as he gains more big league experience.

Offseason Overview: The Mariners had their third winning season since 2004 last year, and they had very little to do to keep things intact for another run, but they did make a few changes. The signed Nelson Cruz, fresh off of his 40-homer outburst in Baltimore, to fill their DH spot with a much-needed, right-handed power hitter. Seattle acquired Seth Smith from San Diego for power-armed, results-deficient Brandon Maurer, and they signed Rickie Weeks to become a super-utility type of player, likely to see a lot of outfield at-bats for the Mariners. The rotation added depth when J.A. Happ was acquired from Toronto for OF Michael Saunders. Several solid moves to improve the roster and the quality of depth, as Seattle tries to get over the hump and make their first World Series in franchise history.

The Verdict: Seattle made some smart decisions this winter. They gave Cruz a four-year, $57 million deal, which could be a gamble given his age (34 on Opening Day), but he was the top offensive talent available on the free agent market for the team’s need. He’ll fit in nicely with Kyle Seager and Robinson Cano in the middle of the order. The rotation is still strong, as Hernandez and Hisashi Iwakuma provide All-Star level production while young arms like Paxton and Taijuan Walker round out the rotation with Happ (if he didn’t pitch himself out of a rotation spot). The Mariners are primed to strike, especially with a Josh Hamilton-less Angels club that has far more question marks than Seattle does heading into the season. While PECOTA was generous with a duplication of the 2014 record, it wasn’t generous enough. Seattle will win 90 or more games in 2015.

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.

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
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
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
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.

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
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.

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
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 10/23/2013.

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
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
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
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
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 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
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
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
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 10/23/2013.

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
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 10/23/2013.

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
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 10/23/2013.

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
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 10/23/2013.

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
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 1/2/2014.
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
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 1/2/2014.

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.

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
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
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
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 10/23/2013.

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
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
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.

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
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
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 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
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 10/23/2013.

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
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 DET AL 11 18 18 1 5 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 .278 .278 .278 .556 51 5
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 10/23/2013.

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
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
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.

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
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 10/23/2013.

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
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 1/2/2014.
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
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
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
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
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.

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
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
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
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
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.

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
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
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
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
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


//

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

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
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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.

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
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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.

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
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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.

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 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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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
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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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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
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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

My Reaction: James Paxton Debut

James Paxton, the Seattle Mariners 4th round pick in the 2010 MLB Draft (after being taken in the 1st round by the Toronto Blue Jays in 2009 and not signing), made his debut against the Tampa Bay Rays on Saturday night.

First Inning

  • The Rays broadcast was saying his fastball fluctuates 7 mph throughout the game, but it was sitting 94-95 mph in the first inning, touching 97, which would make him a pretty dynamic starter, even if it is as a No.3 or No.4 starter, as it appears that he would be in Seattle behind Felix Hernandez and Taijuan Walker down the road.
  • Paxton’s breaking ball was bouncing a lot in the first, but his release point looked consistent from the couch.
  • 14-pitch first, which isn’t bad in a debut. Two ground-ball outs.

Second Inning

  • Mid-90’s in the second still, hitting 96 on Wil Myers.
  • He got behind Myers 3-1 with several very close fastballs (nothing but fastballs in the six-pitch at-bat), but came back and got the ground out to third.
  • Relying heavily on the fastball in the second after bouncing nearly every off-speed pitch that he threw in the first.
  • Hit 98 on a fastball against James Loney, who then lined the next pitch to left on a 3-1 count.
  • Finally threw a big, looping curve for a strike in the second to Sean Rodriguez, following that with a high and tight 97 mph fastball.
  • Really off with the off-speed stuff, which is why he’s relying so much on the fastball.
  • Walked Rodriguez. Inconsistent with release, almost aiming.
  • Three ground-ball outs in the second. Even with the inconsistency in his secondary stuff to this point, Paxton has good downward plane on the fastball, which is making the Rays hitters pound the ball into the ground.
  • 24-pitch second inning for Paxton but even with the hit and the walk, it was good to see him overcome that and continue attacking the zone.

Third Inning

  • Two-pitch at-bat for Yunel Escobar, who, shockingly, grounded out.
  • Very nice breaking ball (85 mph) to Desmond Jennings in the dirt, who will go down as Paxton’s first career strikeout…on three pitches.
  • One-two-three inning as Ben Zobrist hits the ball hard to Michael Saunders for the final out.
  • All of seven pitches to get through the third inning as Paxton continues to show solid velocity and seems to be getting more comfortable with the breaking ball release; although, he is still using it very sparingly.
  • Six of nine outs via the ground-ball variety.

Fourth Inning

  • Evan Longoria jumped on a first-pitch fastball – ground-out to Kyle Seager at third.
  • Looks like an 88-90 mph changeup that Paxton has, rather than the seven mph difference mentioned earlier, but it isn’t very sharp and it looks like it is aimed.
  • High flyball to Raul Ibanez by Delmon Young for the second out.
  • Paxton still is pounding the fastball down against right-handed hitters. With the velocity, the Rays seem overwhelmed.
  • A fastball up to Myers driven to left for a base hit.
  • Good, 79 mph breaking ball to Loney to start off the at-bat. followed by a good 96 mph fastball down in the zone.
  • Ground-ball to Nick Franklin for out number three.
  • 12-pitch fourth for Paxton.

Fifth Inning

  • Paxton started the fifth by working around Sean Rodriguez again, nibbling the outside corner with several fastballs before striking him out with a 97 mph heater.
  • Curveball is looking much more impressive – Jose Lobaton‘s swing at the offering was not very impressive. A couple of pitches after flailing at the curve, Lobaton grounded out to Franklin at second.
  • I saw three breaking balls in the inning and they were all strikes. He got Escobar to ground out to third.
  • 15-pitch inning. 2 K’s, 1 BB, 2 H, 10 ground-ball outs through five solid innings.
  • Still sitting 94-97 with the fastball at 72 pitches (46 strikes).

    Six Inning  

 

  • Paxton seems more confident in his stuff without trying to overpower hitters, as he is sitting on the outside corner at 94 pretty consistently…then comes inside and gets Jennings to groundout to short.
  • Zobrist pounds it into the ground to Seager at third, but a throwing error allows him to reach first.
  • After falling behind 2-0 to Longoria, Paxton gets a visit from Mike Zunino, goes fastball inside (94), and 95 in Longoria’s wheelhouse for a long home run.
  • Paxton regains his composure and strikes out Delmon Young on a good breaking ball in the dirt.
  • Pitch number 89 was 96 mph to Wil Myers. Still bringing good velocity.
  • Myers blooped it to right and it hits off of Justin Smoak‘s glove while Smoak’s right knee clipped Nick Franklin’s head…scary injury.
  • Loney follows Myers hit with a long fly-ball to Saunders for the final out.

 

    After six innings and 95 pitches, it is safe to say that Paxton’s debut was very solid. His final line:  

PaxtonSolid fastball and occasionally solid curveball out of Paxton during his debut. It seems as though he’ll get a much longer look in the rotation over the rest of the 2013 than Taijuan Walker, who will likely be shutdown after his start next week.

Paxton has the stuff to be a solid, innings-eater in the middle of a rotation, but if he were to find more consistency with his stuff, he could be a No.2 starter. A 94 to 97 mph fastball is very good for any pitcher, but that type of velocity out of a left-handed pitcher is downright sexy. He had 11 ground-ball outs tonight, pounding his fastball down in the zone. His curveball wasn’t consistent enough to warrant a lot of praise, but if he finds more consistency out of both the curve and the changeup (which wasn’t very useful or present tonight at 88 to 90 mph), he could be very useful to the rebuilding Mariners.

After tossing 145.2 innings in Triple-A, Paxton should be a fixture in the Seattle rotation in 2014. While he is still a work in progress, The stuff is there to be effective in the majors. Tonight was a very good debut for the 24-year-old left-hander, but there is still some work needed for the powerful southpaw.

September Promotions to Geek Over

hamilton3With September come the expansion of rosters in Major League Baseball. Over the next several weeks, in between completing fantasy football drafts and mocking Notre Dame fans after their loss to Michigan, fans will be able to get a sneak peak at some of the top young players in baseball. While many of them won’t play a huge role in their team’s playoff hopes, several players will excite fans and their favorite organization for the 2014 season. Here are some players to monitor over the next month.

Billy Hamilton, Cincinnati Reds, OF/Pinch-runner extraordinaire

Year Age Tm Lev G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS TB
2013 22 Louisville AAA 123 547 504 75 129 18 4 6 41 75 38 102 .256 .308 .343 .651 173
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 9/3/2013.

When Billy Hamilton steps onto the baseball field, people have to take notice. On Tuesday night, he pinch-ran for Ryan Ludwick and stole his first base – with five-time Gold Glove catcher Yadier Molina behind the plate for St. Louis. Considering the value of a run and a win right now in a very close NL Central and NL Wild Card chase, the ability to utilize Hamilton’s speed will be a tremendous asset for Dusty Baker in Cincinnati. However, after posting a pretty down season in 2013 in Triple-A, there, likely, aren’t  enough bases that Hamilton can steal to make the Reds not look for help in center this offseason, as Shin-Soo Choo reaches free agency and the Reds were looking for more.

Erk Johnson, Chicago White Sox, RHP

Year Age Tm Lev W L ERA G GS CG SHO IP H R ER HR BB IBB SO WHIP H/9 BB/9 SO/9 SO/BB
2013 23 2 Teams AA-AAA 12 3 1.96 24 24 3 1 142.0 100 35 31 7 40 0 131 0.986 6.3 2.5 8.3 3.28
2013 23 Birmingham AA 8 2 2.23 14 14 3 1 84.2 57 22 21 6 21 0 74 0.921 6.1 2.2 7.9 3.52
2013 23 Charlotte AAA 4 1 1.57 10 10 0 0 57.1 43 13 10 1 19 0 57 1.081 6.8 3.0 8.9 3.00
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 9/3/2013.

After an impressive season over two levels, Johnson could have forced the White Sox hand in their apparent rebuilding mode in providing the youngster with a rotation spot in 2013. His ability to keep the ball in the yard will be useful in the bandbox that is US Cellular Field, and while the club has Chris Sale, Jose Quintana, Hector Santiago, and John Danks in the rotation right now, they are one of the only teams in baseball that could actually use some solid right-handed pitching. The Pale Hose appear to have a couple of solid options from the right side in Johnson and Andre Rienzo.

CastellanosNick Castellanos, Detroit Tigers, OF

Year Age Tm Lev G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS TB
2013 21 Toledo AAA 134 595 533 81 147 37 1 18 76 4 54 100 .276 .343 .450 .793 240
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 9/3/2013.

Nick Castellanos was once a lanky, beanpole-like prospect with a long swing and a lot of holes in his swing. While he could still eat a few steaks, Castellanos has done a lot to make himself useful to the Tigers, moving off of third base to become a solid outfielder, and improving his strike zone management tremendously. He has very good, still raw, power that could make him a fantastic addition to the already formidable Detroit lineup. He may not get a huge opportunity this month but the Tigers gave a lot of at-bats to Avisail Garcia late last season and Castellanos could prove to be more valuable in the lineup than Pat Kelly and Andy Dirks in left field. With the talent around him in Motown, Castellanos could become an above-average regular with clubs being more cautious with Prince Fielder and Miguel Cabrera.

Jose Ramirez, Cleveland Indians, INF

Year Age Tm Lev G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS TB
2013 20 Akron AA 113 533 482 78 131 16 6 3 38 38 39 41 .272 .325 .349 .674 168
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 9/3/2013.

A strong middle infield prospect in the Cleveland Indians organization that isn’t named Francisco Lindor, Ramirez has established himself as a unique talent, with an excellent hit tool and solid speed. It’s possible that Ramirez steals quite a few at-bats from the struggling Lonnie Chisenhall in September, and, if he shows himself capable, he could steal his job next spring. Ramirez was moved quickly to accommodate the quick rise of Lindor, and, while he doesn’t have a lot of power, he will make enough contact to be a very good utility infielder in any worst case scenario.

JR Murphy, New York Yankees, C

Year Age Tm Lev G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS TB
2013 22 2 Teams AAA-AA 108 468 413 60 111 29 0 12 46 1 47 73 .269 .347 .426 .773 176
2013 22 Trenton AA 49 211 183 34 49 10 0 6 25 1 24 32 .268 .352 .421 .773 77
2013 22 Scranton/Wilkes-Barre AAA 59 257 230 26 62 19 0 6 21 0 23 41 .270 .342 .430 .773 99
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 9/3/2013.

Murphy, like Ramirez, has been pushed along by another top prospect, as the Yankees have moved the young catcher quickly due to the potential monster who is Gary Sanchez; however, Murphy isn’t a terrible player and probably shouldn’t be overlooked as an option at a weak Yankees catching position in 2014. With only Chris Stewart, Austin Romine and Francisco Cervelli ahead of him, Murphy could prove to be more than a holdover before Sanchez gets his already questionable makeup together in New York.

Michael Choice, Oakland Athletics, OF

Year Age Tm Lev G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS TB
2013 23 Sacramento AAA 132 600 510 90 154 29 1 14 89 1 69 115 .302 .390 .445 .835 227
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 9/3/2013.

Choice was once an all-or-nothing type of hitter who hit home runs in bunches while attending the University of Texas-Arlington. After hitting 30 home runs in 2011, with a little help from the fences of the California League, Choice has a total of 24 home runs over the last two seasons. While he may never reach the power expectations that he once had, Choice has enough plate discipline and gap power to be an asset for the always cost-conscious Oakland A’s. He could take the at-bats that Chris Young was getting in 2014, which would make him a fantasy baseball asset.

Jonathan Schoop, Baltimore Orioles, INF

Year Age Tm Lev G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS TB
2013 21 3 Teams AAA-Rk-A- 81 336 309 42 86 14 0 14 52 1 20 62 .278 .330 .460 .790 142
2013 21 Orioles Rk 8 32 25 9 9 2 0 3 9 0 6 6 .360 .469 .800 1.269 20
2013 21 Aberdeen A- 3 15 14 3 8 1 0 2 9 0 1 1 .571 .600 1.071 1.671 15
2013 21 Norfolk AAA 70 289 270 30 69 11 0 9 34 1 13 55 .256 .301 .396 .697 107
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 9/3/2013.

Schoop missed significant time in 2013 due to a stress fracture in his back, but upon his return, he quickly showed the Orioles the tools that have made him a solid, under-the-radar prospect. Schoop may not have a very keen eye at the dish, but he is very effective hitter, especially for a 21-year-old in the upper ranks of the minors. Schoop will, likely, have an opportunity to win the second base or third base job down the line, but not until the Orioles give Manny Machado a look at shortstop once J.J. Hardy leaves via free agency (or is moved off of short).

MartinezCarlos Martinez, St. Louis Cardinals, RHP

Year Age Tm Lev W L ERA G GS IP H R ER HR BB SO WHIP H/9 BB/9 SO/9 SO/BB
2013 21 2 Teams AAA-AA 6 3 2.49 16 16 79.2 65 25 22 4 28 72 1.167 7.3 3.2 8.1 2.57
2013 21 Springfield AA 1 0 2.31 3 3 11.2 11 3 3 1 1 9 1.029 8.5 0.8 6.9 9.00
2013 21 Memphis AAA 5 3 2.51 13 13 68.0 54 22 19 3 27 63 1.191 7.1 3.6 8.3 2.33
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 9/3/2013.

Dubbed “Little Pedro” due to his size and stuff, Carlos Martinez has been up and down for the Cardinals this season, mostly pitching in relief, a role that many seem he is destined to take over due to his small (6′, 185) frame. Martinez has enough stuff to be a front-end starter, but the Cardinals pitching depth allows the club to take things slow with their young arms. By utilizing Martinez and his electric stuff out of the bullpen, much like they did with Trevor Rosenthal in 2012, the Cardinals may be able to have even more shutdown options out of the bullpen.
Michael Wacha, St. Louis Cardinals, RHP

Year Age Tm Lg Lev Aff W L ERA G GS IP H R ER HR BB SO WHIP H/9 BB/9 SO/9 SO/BB
2013 21 Memphis PCL AAA STL 5 3 2.65 15 15 85.0 65 26 25 9 19 73 0.988 6.9 2.0 7.7 3.84
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 9/3/2013.

Michael Wacha, like Martinez, has been up and down this season. A first-round pick out of Texas A&M in 2012, Wacha flew through the minors with precise control and powerful stuff, which has carried over to the big leagues in his 39.1 innings. With injuries to Jaime Garcia and Jake Westbrook, the club has relied heavily on young arms, including Shelby Miller, Lance Lynn, and Joe Kelly, and as those arms reach innings limits, it could be Wacha and Martinez who come to the rescue as the Cards head to another playoff round.
WalkerTaijuan Walker, Seattle Mariners, RHP

Year Age Tm Lev W L ERA G GS IP H R ER HR BB SO WHIP H/9 BB/9 SO/9 SO/BB
2013 20 2 Teams AA-AAA 9 10 2.93 25 25 141.1 112 56 46 11 57 160 1.196 7.1 3.6 10.2 2.81
2013 20 Jackson AA 4 7 2.46 14 14 84.0 58 31 23 6 30 96 1.048 6.2 3.2 10.3 3.20
2013 20 Tacoma AAA 5 3 3.61 11 11 57.1 54 25 23 5 27 64 1.413 8.5 4.2 10.0 2.37
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 9/3/2013.

Walker is an extremely big and athletic body who is still relatively raw as far as his command and stuff goes, which speaks volumes as to why you should be excited to see him. He could be the top arm in the majors, taking on a phenomenon in Seattle that could equal that of Felix Hernandez. At 6’4″, 220 pounds and having just turned 21 in August, Walker has an immeasurable ceiling and will likely become a number one starter within the next few years. His first start (five innings, two hits, zero earned runs) was a nice introduction. He may not make more than one or two more starts before being shut down due to innings, but those are starts that are must-see TV.
James Paxton, Seattle Mariners, LHP

Year Age Tm Lev W L ERA G GS CG SHO IP H R ER HR BB SO WHIP H/9 BB/9 SO/9 SO/BB
2013 24 Tacoma AAA 8 11 4.45 28 26 2 1 145.2 158 84 72 10 58 131 1.483 9.8 3.6 8.1 2.26
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 9/3/2013.

Paxton is an interesting prospect. He is left-handed and has very good stuff, striking out 9.6 per 9/IP over his minor league career; however, Paxton also walks a lot of batters and can’t seem to miss enough bats when he isn’t completely missing them, posting a 1.45 WHIP over his last two seasons and 252 innings. At 6’4″, 220, Paxton has a strong frame, just like Walker, but he appears headed to a mid-rotation future, and he could become a very good innings-eating pitcher once he gets a grasp of his stuff and the strike zone.
Marcus Semien, Chicago White Sox, INF

Year Age Tm Lev G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS TB
2013 22 2 Teams AA-AAA 137 625 518 110 147 32 6 19 66 24 98 90 .284 .401 .479 .880 248
2013 22 Birmingham AA 105 483 393 90 114 21 5 15 49 20 84 66 .290 .420 .483 .903 190
2013 22 Charlotte AAA 32 142 125 20 33 11 1 4 17 4 14 24 .264 .338 .464 .802 58
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 9/3/2013.

Marcus Semien has moved quickly through the White Sox system after being taken in the 6th round of the 2011 MLB Draft. He has an intriguing skill-set for a middle infielder, possessing very good gap power, solid speed, and the ability to handle both short and second defensively. His plate discipline will be valuable to the rebuilding White Sox and if the club is ready to move on from the Gordon Beckham, Alexei Ramirez, and Conor Gillaspie trio in the infield, Semien could fill any of those positions in 2014.
Matt Davidson, Arizona Diamondbacks, 3B

Year Age Tm Lev G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS TB
2013 22 Reno AAA 115 500 443 55 124 32 3 17 74 1 46 134 .280 .350 .481 .831 213
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 9/3/2013.

Davidson is a powerful third base prospect who has been passed over for Eric Chavez this season. He has the ability to hit around 30 home runs playing half of his games at Chase Field, but he will need to make more consistent contact to reach those levels. Having watched Paul Goldschmidt similar strikeout numbers in the minors before reaching MVP levels in performance this season, Davidson’s stock shouldn’t be taken lightly. With that being said, the fact that they didn’t seem to want to commit to him when Chavez was hurt, instead relying on Martin Prado moving in from the outfield, the club may have questions about his long-term role. Considering how quickly they gave up on Trevor Bauer, you have to wonder what is going on in their front office at times.
Chris Owings, Arizona Diamondbacks, SS

Year Age Tm Lev G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS TB
2013 21 Reno AAA 125 575 546 104 180 31 8 12 81 20 22 99 .330 .359 .482 .841 263
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 9/3/2013.

Owings looks to be blocked by Didi Gregorius at short but he looks like a player that could fetch a nice return if the Diamondbacks were to deal him this offseason. Solid pop, solid speed, and an atrocious approach at the plate, Owings could become a valuable Ben Zobrist-like player, capable of handling several positions to get his playing time, as he is just 22 years old Arizona could have him blocked at short (Gregorius), third (Davidson), and second (Aaron Hill is signed through 2016).