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b31c's Top 75 Prospects for 2014 (1-25)

I've been bored the past couple of days, and since I've been meaning to do a big scale list over the past few years, I'll go ahead and do one now. Here it goes:

1. Byron Buxton OF/MIN - Consensus number 1 prospect in baseball. Advanced approach for his age; projects to have a plus hit tool, plus power, a plus arm, plus-plus speed and a potentially plus-plus glove out in CF, to go along with his youth. Can't ask for much more in a prospect. Mike Trout comparisons are very real, I think. ETA: Late 2014

2. Xander Bogaerts SS/BOS - Arguably the top SS prospect in baseball, Bogaerts projects to hit for average and power, and should play fine defense at SS. The Red Sox really emphasized to him last spring training that getting on-base more was a must for him, and he responded very well, posting the best walk rate of his career. The cherry on top for him is that he's major league ready, and depending on what happens with Stephen Drew, it seems likely that he'll be Boston's opening day SS next season. ETA: 2014

3. Miguel Sano 3B/MIN - Was considering bumping him down a spot, maybe two, due to his injury, but that would probably be a knee-jerk reaction. Sano seems like a fairly safe bet to hit in the .270s while hitting 25-30+ bombs per year, all while getting on base at a good rate, and playing solid defense at 3B. Has Miguel Cabrera-like power potential. ETA: Mid-Late 2014

4. Francisco Lindor SS/CLE - This may seem a tad bit high for Lindor, as his power potential doesn't compare to some of the other elite SS prospects like XB, Correa, Baez, etc. However, I believe he has the highest floor out of the group. The glove is just incredible, and should be plus-plus, while having a plus arm to go along with it. The hit tool is borderline plus-plus for me, as he should hit near the .300s while getting on base at a high clip. Also has the potential to steal 20+ bags per season. Would be an unreal prospect if he had more than 10-12 HR power in him. ETA: Mid-late 2014

5. Oscar Taveras OF/STL - Taveras's slide stops here. He did miss a lot of time in 2013, but I think he'll be his old-self in 2014. Hit tool is borderline plus-plus, and the raw power is easily plus. His contact skills in general are special. He's not going to create much havoc on the basepaths, but he has a strong arm and should play solid to above-average defense out in RF. ETA: Mid 2014

6. Carlos Correa SS/HOU - Correa may very well be the number 1 overall prospect next year if he continues to produce the way he did in 2013. Incredibly advanced for someone so young, not only at the plate, but in the field. It remains to be seen if he'll need to move to 3B, but for the time being, he's a SS. Projects to hit for both power and for average, like Bogaerts, but his defensive potential is greater than XB's, as his arm is plus-plus and his glove is easily plus. I'm optimistic that he stays at SS, even when he fills out his frame, but moving to 3B wouldn't be catastrophic. Could be the next Troy Tulowitzki (minus the plaguing injuries, of course) if everything continues to work out for him. ETA: Mid-late 2015

7. Archie Bradley RHP/ARI - Bradley may arguably have the most electric arsenal in all the minors. He boasts a borderline plus-plus fastball, sitting in the mid 90s and frequently touching 96-97 (sometimes higher), while possessing a potentially plus-plus, wipe-out curveball. He's big, strong, athletic & young. His command is still his weakness, but he made some strides with his control last season, and his changeup has a chance to be an above-average offering; just needs to throw it more often in games and give it a chance to improve. ETA: Mid-late 2014

8. Addison Russell SS/OAK - Out of all of the shortstops in the minors, Russell may be the most well-rounded one. He has a very sound swing, and projects to have a plus hit tool, as well as plus raw power. His arm is a plus one, and his glove, should it continue to improve, could also be plus. And then to top it off, he's a threat on the base paths. With Jed Lowrie manning SS in Oakland for the time being, it will allow the organization to be as patient with Russell as possible, though he is quite advanced for his age. Russell has all of the tools and skills to overtake a lot of the names ahead of him on this list, and may do that with a successful season in Double-A. ETA: Mid 2015

9. Javier Baez SS/CHC - The SS barrage continues with Baez, who possesses the most raw power out of the group. For as many times as he strikes out, his contact skills are quite good, and as a result, he can hit a lot of pitches. The problem is that he is very aggressive at the plate, and is a swing-first, swing-second batter. This uber-aggressive approach causes him to strike out more times than he should, though to his credit, he draws walks at an okay rate, and projects to have a solid to above-average hit tool. He's got an easy plus arm, and while the glove doesn't have that upside, it could be decent. Going to be interesting to see how he handles the off-speed-happy Triple-A level with his approach, whenever it is he gets there. ETA: Late 2014

10. Gregory Polanco OF/PIT - A few might be surprised that Polanco is the first outfielder on this list, but I love what he brings to the table. He easily has plus speed, and plays terrific defense in the outfield. He's made big-time progress with his plate discipline, and projects to have an above-average (possibly plus) hit tool and above-average (also potentially plus) raw power. It remains to be seen how he'll play with a filled-out frame, as he's only 6'4" 175, but he has the rare potential to impact the game in every facet if he continues to put it together. ETA: Mid-late 2014

11. George Springer OF/HOU - The term '5-tool player' gets thrown around a lot nowadays, but the reality is that very few players are true 5-toolers. Springer is one of them, and is probably the most legitimate 5-tooler in the minors. His glove will likely be plus out in CF, and his arm is more than strong enough to play in RF, should it be necessary. The speed/power combination he possesses is elite, as he famously nearly reached the 40/40 mark last season. Both the speed and the power are obviously plus, and the power may be a tick under plus-plus. He's very athletic, strong, possesses great makeup and plays with a lot of energy. He has hit for a high average throughout his minor league career, but there is too much hit-and-miss in his game (thanks to a non-existent 2-strike approach) for me to think he'll sniff .300, even in his prime. It's more likely that he hits in the high .260s or .270s while drawing a good number of walks. ETA: 2014

12. Taijuan Walker RHP/SEA - This will no doubt be one of the more talked about rankings, as a lot of people have Walker in their top 10. The stuff is there, with a mid-90s fastball that will touch 97, an excellent curveball and a potentially solid change-up. He's similar to his frequently compared counterpart, Archie Bradley, though Walker has better control at present, and Bradley's changeup looks to be the better of the pair. Walker's mechanics were put into question late in the season, and though the numbers did not take a dip, he was apparently finishing too upright, and in general the delivery was too compact. These assertions may be nothing, but Tyler Skaggs struggled last season due to that same mechanical problem. ETA: 2014

13. Dylan Bundy RHP/BAL - The former consensus top 3 overall prospect had Tommy John surgery last year, and is projected to start out in Double-A for a little while before heading on up to Triple-A, barring any medical setbacks. TJ surgery has proven to be detrimental to pitchers, and the reality is that we don't really know what type of pitcher Bundy will be when he's fully healthy again. Will the fastball still have terrific velocity? Will he still have great arm speed when he throws his changeup? The latter may be a silly question to ask, but it's possible. If he does come back unchanged by the surgery, he should be a bonafide ace. The fastball is a tick under plus-plus, and both his curveball and changeup project to be above-average offerings, if not plus ones. The command is solid and his delivery is very clean. We just need to see how his arm holds up. ETA: 2015

14. Mark Appel RHP/HOU - Appel is arguably the most polished pitcher in the minors, and he is essentially ready to pitch in the big leagues today. The Astros, however, won't rush him up, as he'll likely spend most of the year in Double-A and Triple-A. Appel is one of the few pitchers who projects to have three plus offerings. The fastball sits in the 94-95 area consistently, and while his slider is his go-to pitch, the changeup is a weapon against lefties. The command is above-average, and his delivery is very simple & repeatable. He's a good athlete for his size, and has the frame of a workhorse. Has great makeup, to boot. Safe bet to at least be a good #3, and he could potentially become a borderline ace if everything works out for him. ETA: Mid-late 2014

15. Kyle Zimmer RHP/KC - I'm going to take a bit of a gamble here with Zimmer. He had bone chips removed from his elbow, but it's an injury that's not expected to hamper him in the long-term. When he's on, Zimmer has downright electric stuff. His fastball is a tick under plus-plus, as it sits in the mid 90s and frequently touches the 96-97 range. His curveball is one of the best in the minors, and his slider projects to be an above-average pitch, with the potential to be a plus one. The changeup is behind the other two secondaries, but it's a solid pitch, and could become an above-average one in time. All in all, we're looking at potentially four above-average pitches, with two of them already being plus. Very rare do you find that in a pitching prospect. The control is good, and his command should be solid. Like Appel, his delivery is sound and very repeatable. Possesses a strong 6'3" frame. Has legitimate ace potential. ETA: Mid-late 2014

16. Noah Syndergaard RHP/NYM - The very popular Syndergaard slots in at number 16. He's a mountain at 6'6" 240, and possesses one of the better fastball-changeup combos in the minors, perhaps the best one. The fastball will touch the upper 90s at times, and the changeup has terrific late fade on it. The curveball is what presently holds him back. It made strides in 2013 but at this point it projects to be nothing more than a decent 3rd pitch, though it could perhaps become a better pitch in time. He possesses excellent control and solid command, something that is very dangerous when combined with a fastball that has reportedly touched 100. With a good spring training, I suspect he'll start out in Triple-A, though he could return to Double-A for a very brief stint. ETA: Mid 2014

17. Nick Castellanos 3B/DET - With the trade of Prince Fielder, Castellanos returns to his old position of 3B after playing LF quite a bit last season, with Miguel Cabrera moving to 1B. Castellanos is a very pure hitter, and has the ability to spray balls all over the field like it's nothing. The power is a bit behind, as it goes missing at times, but he should be a 20+ HR guy in time. The good news for Castellanos is that hitting is the most important thing in today's industry, as he can't really do much else. He's an average at-best runner with a mediocre glove, and has an okay arm. Still, he'll be a massive upgrade at the hot corner this year, though I will miss watching Cabrera attempt to play 3B. ETA: 2014

18. Robert Stephenson RHP/CIN - The Cincinnati flamethrower was dominant in 2013, putting up tremendous numbers across the board. His fastball is an elite one, as it projects to be a plus-plus pitch. His curveball is his out pitch, as it projects to be an easy plus offering. The changeup is inconsistent, but it flashes occasionally, and with further development, could turn into an above-average pitch. In his four starts at Double-A, he struggled a lot with his control, but as he continues to mature, it shouldn't be a problem. Same goes for his command. Could potentially be a borderline ace if he puts it all together. ETA: 2015

19. Jameson Taillon RHP/PIT - The towering Texas native had his ups & downs in 2013, but overall it was a fairly successful campaign. He possesses a big fastball that sits in the mid 90s and will touch 97-98, though it has gotten some flack for being too hittable at times. The secondary stuff is further behind, but both his curveball and changeup have above-average potential, with the curve being slightly ahead right now in terms of development. His control was shaky throughout the season, and the command was for the most part inconsistent. At the very least, Taillon projects to be a workhorse number 3 starter, with the potential to be a good number 2. ETA: Mid-late 2014

20. Kris Bryant 3B/CHC - I really battled with myself on this one. Don't like ranking new draft picks high simply because they are all new & shiny, but I just can't resist with Bryant. The raw power he possesses is borderline plus-plus, and his tool could be a plus one when it's all said and done. He has a sound approach at the plate, and makes consistent, loud contact. Strikeouts could be a small issue in the future, but I don't think it'll be anything more than that. His glove at 3B is okay, but there is talk that with the acquisition of Mike Olt, Bryant may move to RF, and he can play there with his plus arm. Could be a perennial All-Star if he lives up to his talent. ETA: 2015

21. Travis d'Arnaud C/NYM - This is another mini-gamble I'm taking, as d'Arnaud has had knee troubles the past few years, but catching prospects like him don't come around all that often. His hit tool and power are both above-average, with the potential to be plus in the future, and his arm is a plus one at present. The glove is solid, and the Mets apparently like how he calls games. The speed is below-average, but almost every catcher has that trait. His approach at the plate is good, though his 2-strike one could use some more work. Assuming injuries don't continue to bother him, TDA will likely be the opening day catcher for the Mets in 2014. Could be an All-Star for a long time. ETA: 2014

22. Jonathan Gray RHP/COL - To put it simply, Gray was dominant in his minor league debut in 2013. His plus-plus fastball and potentially plus-plus slider are just filthy. Both his control and his command are solid, and his changeup flashes potential as well. He's a wide body at 6'4" 255, and is very durable. His delivery is very basic and repeatable. Colorado is probably the toughest place to pitch in the bigs, but Gray is so tough to hit that it may not slow him down that much. Could be an ace if he further improves his changeup and command, but the development of those two things aren't exactly a given. ETA: Mid-late 2014

23. Albert Almora OF/CHC - Theo Epstein's nearly-adopted son was slowed by injuries in his pro-ball debut, but he was impressive nonetheless. His hit tool is very, very impressive for someone his age, as he consistently makes good contact and rarely strikes out. He could be more patient at the plate, but I expect that he will be once he's older. He has the potential to hit .300 with 15-20 HRs per year, and also steal a fair number of bags. He could do all of that while providing outstanding defense in CF. His work ethic and makeup in general are praised, so I have a hard time seeing him not succeed. Could rank a lot higher this time next year if he does well in High-A, and if he gets the chance, Double-A, but I think the Cubs are going to be patient with him. ETA: 2016

24. Gary Sanchez C/NYY - The Dominican backstop has big time power, and could eventually be a 30+ HR threat, though it's more likely that he settles in the 20-25 range. His swing is tailored for a power hitter, and he could hit for a decent average as well. His approach at the plate continues to improve, and has shown a willingness to put the ball in play. His arm is easily plus, but the main question mark with him right now is the glove. It's not terrible, but it's below-average. He's still very young, but the industry seems divided on whether the glove will be below-average or solid. He should spend a lot of the season at Double-A, and could get some time at Triple-A if he improves his defense, and generally continues to produce. ETA: Mid-late 2015

25. Jorge Soler OF/CHC - Like Almora, Soler was slowed by injuries in 2013. When he did play, he was quite good. He has a terrific approach at the plate for someone his age, and consistently makes hard contact with his plus bat speed. He has plus raw power, and his hit tool projects to be an above-average one. The arm is easily plus, and his glove has the potential to be plus as well, though it's more likely that it winds up as above-average. He has good speed for his size, and can cover some ground out in the outfield. Going to be interesting to see how he handles Double-A. ETA: 2015

Was originally going to do one whole post of 75, but I'm just going to split it into three different posts of 25. Took longer than expected to get this far.

Any and all feedback is much appreciated.

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