The first thing I do when writing a new book each year is a review of what I wrote last year. I started the 2014 Baseball Prospect Book this weekend, and Step One is a review of the Top 50/50 lists.
This list is what I came out with this past January. In the book, I keep hitters and pitchers on separate lists, which I think is better philosophically and is certainly more convenient for fantasy owners. The 50/50 list also has more of a fantasy tilt than the Top 150 list I produced here for Minor League Ball last spring. That accounts for the high ranking of Billy Hamilton coming off his 2012 season, and it also tends to give extra weight to players who are close to the majors.
I will get the pitchers posted in a separate article.
Top 50 Hitting Prospects for 2013 (Review of 2013 Baseball Prospect Book January list)
1) Jurickson Profar, SS, Rangers: Hit .234/.308/.336 in 286 at-bats for the Rangers, used as a super-utility player. He can and will improve and I still expect an excellent career.
2) Oscar Taveras, OF, Cardinals: Hit .306/.341/.462 in 173 at-bats for Triple-A Memphis, but missed most of the season with a leg injury. He’s still an excellent prospect if health allows.
3) Wil Myers, OF, Rays: Everything the Rays could have hoped, hitting .293/.354/.478 in 335 major league at-bats, knocking 13 homers. Should be a mainstay for years to come.
4) Xander Bogaerts, SS, Red Sox: Hit .297/.388/.477 with 15 homers, 63 walks in 444 at-bats between Double-A and Triple-A; hit .250/.320/.364 in 18-game big league trial. All systems look go to me. Just needs to play.
5) Mike Zunino, C, Mariners: Hit .227/.297/.478 with 11 homers in 52 games in Triple-A, .214/.290/.329 in 52 games in the majors. I think he was rushed and missing time to an injury didn’t help, but we should still expect a long and successful career.
6) Billy Hamilton, OF, Reds: Disappointing season in Triple-A, hitting .256/.308/.343 though with 75 steals, but then stole 13 bases in just 13 big league games while hitting .368. "Game changing" speed is not an exaggeration with him, though obviously the other components of his game need more work. I think he’s better than he looked at Louisville though. His ranking here was influenced a great deal by potential fantasy value.
7) Miguel Sano, 3B, Twins: Crushed the ball in High-A (.330/.424/.655), had some glitches in Double-A but still showed enormous power, .236/.344/.571, combined for 35 homers, 30 doubles. Strikes out a lot, but also draws walks and defense is improving. Still on course.
8) Christian Yelich, OF, Marlins: Hit .288/.370/.396 in 62 games after being promoted to the big leagues, stole 10 bases. I expect steady improvement and additional power as he matures.
9) Travis D’Arnaud, C, Mets: Injury-plagued season, hit .286/.420/.514 in 32 minor league games, .202/.286/.263 in 31 major league games. I still think he has the ability to be a solid player on both sides of the ball, but durability looks like a concern.
10) Javier Baez, SS, Cubs: Hit .282/.341/.578 with 37 homers, 20 steals combined between High-A and Double-A. Strikeouts are high but the bat speed and power are amazing.
11) Carlos Correa, SS, Astros: Hit .320/.405/.467 with 58 walks, 83 strikeouts in 450 at-bats in Low-A, with impressive defense at shortstop, playing the season at age 18. I expect more power and he’ll do everything well except steal a ton of bases.
12) Mike Olt, 3B, Rangers: Traded to Cubs. A complete disaster of a season, hit just .201/.303/.381 including .168 in 39 games after the trade. He did hit 15 homers, but strikeouts ate him alive in Triple-A, and even his defense deteriorated. Eyesight problems may have something to do with this, but the fact is that he’s 25 now and can’t afford another horrid season.
13) Addison Russell, SS, Athletics: Hit .275/.377/.508 with 17 homers, 21 steals, 61 walks in 429 at-bats as the youngest regular in the High-A California League. Can’t argue with that.
14) Francisco Lindor, SS, Indians: Hit .303/.380/.407 with 25 steals, 49 walks, just 46 strikeouts in 403 at-bats between High-A and Double-A. Also excellent defensively. Not a lot of power yet, but everything else is in place.
15) Austin Hedges, C, Padres: Hit .260/.333/.390 with four homers in 300 at-bats between High-A and Double-A. Continues to draw excellent reviews for his glovework, but has work to do if he wants to be an impact hitter.
16) Oswaldo Arcia, OF, Twins: Played 97 games with the Twins, hitting .251/.304/.430 with 14 homers, 23 walks, 117 strikeouts in 351 at-bats. I suspect his contact ability will improve in time; the power is certainly here.
17) Jonathan Singleton, 1B, Astros: Unimpressive season, hit .230/.351/.401 with 11 homers, 110 strikeouts in 304 at-bats between three minor league levels after a drug suspension. Scouts still like his power potential but his bat is not refined at this point.
18) Gary Sanchez, C, Yankees: Hit .253/.324/.412 with 15 homers, 41 walks, 87 strikeouts in 454 at-bats between High-A and Double-A. Defense continues to improve steadily and I think there is more in the bat.
19) Byron Buxton, OF, Twins: Outstanding season, hit .334/.424/.520 with 12 homers, 55 steals, 76 walks in 488 at-bats between Low-A and High-A. Everyone knew his tools were excellent but his baseball skills and instincts turned out to be better than advertised, pushing him to the very top rank of prospectdom entering 2014.
20) Trevor Story, SS, Rockies: Tough first half, but played better as season progressed, hit .233/.305/.394 with 12 homers, 34 doubles, 23 steals, 45 walks, but 183 strikeouts in 497 at-bats in High-A. Contact issues obvious but young enough to rebound at 21.
21) Albert Almora, OF, Cubs: Limited by injuries but played well when healthy, hitting .329/.376/.466 in 61 games in Low-A. Skills look as advertised, just needs health.
22) Tyler Austin, OF, Yankees: Hit .257/.344/.373 in 319 at-bats in Double-A, showed good plate discipline but not enough power. Season ended early with a wrist injury, which was plausibly reducing his power. Came back and looked good in last two games of the season. I wouldn’t give up yet.
23) Jorge Soler, OF, Cubs: Like organization-mate Almora, Soler played well when healthy (.281/.343/.467 in 55 games) but missed half the season with injury. He should live up to expectations if further complications are avoided.
24) Jedd Gyorko, INF, Padres: Hit .249/.301/.444 with 23 homers, 33 walks, 123 strikeouts in 125 games for the Padres. I think he will improve from here.
25) Nick Franklin, INF, Mariners: Ripped up Triple-A (.324/.440/.472 in 39 games), showed some pop in the majors with 12 homers but hit just .225/.303/.382 overall in 102 games. Like Gyorko, I think he will improve with time.
26) Brad Miller, SS, Mariners: Crushed the upper minors (.319/.399/.521 in 68 games) and held his own after promotion to majors, hitting .265/.318/.418 in 76 games. Looks like he can stick at shortstop and the bat is quite solid. A fine player.
27) Jackie Bradley, OF, Red Sox: Hit .275/.374/.469 with 10 homers in 80 games in Triple-A, but just .189/.280/.337 with sporadic playing time in Boston over 37 games. I think he’ll improve and become a solid regular.
28) Alen Hanson, SS, Pirates: Very good in High-A (.281/.339/.444 in 92 games) but not as much offense after moving up to Double-A in late July (.255/.299/.380). Needs more time but at age 21 that’s not unexpected.
29) Yasiel Puig, OF, Dodgers: Talk about an impact: .319/.391/.534 with 19 homers in 104 major league games. Not a fluke; I expect a mercurial career with outstanding performance at his best but also continued controversies.
30) Anthony Rendon, 3B, Nationals: Hit .307/.452/.575 in 36 games between Double-A/Triple-A, then .265/.329/.396 in 98 big league games. I still expect him to develop into a .300ish hitter with a high OBP and at least moderate power.
31) Gregory Polanco, OF, Pirates: Strong in High-A (.312/.364/.472, 24 steals in 57 games), didn’t show as much pop in Double-A (.263/.354/.407 but 13 steals in 68 games). Making progress with the strike zone and I think more power will come.
32) Rymer Liriano, OF, Padres: Missed entire season with Tommy John surgery.
33) Nolan Arenado, 3B, Rockies: Hit .267/.301/.405 with 10 homers in 133 major league games. I think his bat will get better, and his defense has turned out to be excellent.
34) Nick Castellanos, OF, Tigers: Hit .276/.343/.450 with 18 homers, 37 doubles, 54 walks in 533 at-bats for Triple-A Toledo. Power coming along well, should be a solid regular and perhaps more with maturity.
35) Kaleb Cowart, 3B, Angels: Extremely disappointing season in Double-A, just .221/.279/.301 with six homers, 124 strikeouts in 498 at-bats for Arkansas. Young enough to improve of course, but the Angels really need some impact prospects and Cowart didn’t come through.
36) David Dahl, OF, Rockies: Played just 10 games in Low-A before suffering a severe hamstring tear. Monitor spring medical reports closely.
37) Corey Seager, SS, Dodgers: Excellent in Low-A (.309/.389/.529 with 12 homers in 272 at-bats), but struggled after moving up to High-A (.160/.246/.320 in 100 at-bats). He was just 19 years old and overall it was a strong campaign.
38) Wilmer Flores, 3B, Mets: Hit .321/.357/.531 with 15 homers for Triple-A Las Vegas, .211/.248/.295 in 27 games for the Mets. His true level of ability is between those two extremes.
39) Brian Goodwin, OF, Nationals: Hit .252/.355/.407 with 10 homers, 19 steals, 66 walks in 457 at-bats in Double-A. Still has excellent tools, still learning how to use them.
40) George Springer, OF, Astros: Hit .303/.411/.600 with 37 homers, 108 RBI, 83 walks, 45 steals in 492 at-bats between Double-A and Triple-A. Also whiffed 161 times. I doubt he will hit for high averages in the majors, but power/speed/walks/defense combination looks excellent.
41) Courtney Hawkins, OF, White Sox: 2012 first-rounder was a complete disaster in High-A, hitting .178/.249/.384 with 19 homers and 160 strikeouts in 383 at-bats. Hit .165 in the second half of the season. He was clearly not ready for his level but the White Sox threw him in to sink or swim.
42) Mason Williams, OF, Yankees: Hit .261/.327/.350 with 15 steals in 100 games in High-A, .153/.164/.264 in 17 games in Double-A. Very athletic, strong glove, production as a hitter does not match the hype he receives.
43) Delino DeShields, 2B, Astros: Hit .317/.405/.468 with 14 triples, 51 steals, 57 walks in 451 at-bats in High-A. It was Lancaster and the California League, very friendly environment, but I think he’s made progress. Double-A will tell us a lot.
44) Aaron Hicks, OF, Twins: Hit .192/.259/.338 with 84 strikeouts, eight homers, nine steals in 281 big league at-bats. Overmatched after being asked to skip Triple-A, but with his tools he will get more chances.
45) Leonys Martin, OF, Rangers: Hit .260/.313/.385 with eight homers, 36 steals in 457 big league at-bats. Defense and speed will keep him employed for awhile, but I’d like to see better OBP skills and/or more power.
46) Eddie Rosario, 2B, Twins: Batted .329/.377/.527 in 207 at-bats in High-A, .284/.330/.412 in 289 at-bats in Double-A. Has made a large amount of progress defensively after converting from outfield to second base, and bat continues to look solid.
47) Kyle Parker, OF, Rockies: Solid season in Double-A, hit .288/.345..492 with 23 homers, 40 walks, 99 strikeouts in 480 at-bats. Should see the majors sometime in 2014.
48) Dorssys Paulino, SS, Indians: Disappointing season from toolsy infielder, hit .246/.297/.349 with 12 steals in 476 at-bats in Low-A. Just 18 years old however, so there is still time.
49) Garin Cecchini, 3B, Red Sox: Excellent contact hitting and plate discipline ability result in .350/.469/.547 line in 214 at-bats in High-A, .296/.420/.404 line in 240 at-bats in Double-A. Also stole 23 bases. I still think he can show more power in time and the OBP skills are terrific.
50) Adam Eaton, OF, Diamondbacks: Season slowed by injury, hit .252/.314/.360 in 250 big league at-bats. Disappointing, but I think he’ll show more with a fresh start.
Remember, that's the pre-season book list. For a look at my current thinking, check the Top 75 end-of-season list.