MLB: Every Team’s Top Prospect Heading Into 2014 Season
MLB Top Prospects
The process of prospects making it to the MLB can take players through a variety of journeys, with players coming from many different backgrounds and ethnicities. The background of players ranges from international guys who begin playing professional baseball at the age of 16, players who come into the minor leagues out of high school or out of college or even players who enter into American pro baseball having played professionally overseas.
The result of these various upbringings and arrivals into professional baseball is that judging baseball prospects can be a very difficult process, but modern scouting practices have helped to make this art much more efficient recently. This efficiency has been put on display, as from 2007 to 2011 the No. 1 picks in the MLB Draft were David Price, Tim Beckham, Stephen Strasburg, Bryce Harper and Gerrit Cole, and each of these players has gone on to not only advance to the major leagues, but become some of the best regarded young players in all of baseball. Likewise, players who have signed from overseas such as Yu Darvish, Yasiel Puig and Yoenis Cespedes have all signed after playing in top leagues and immediately become star players. While these are just a few examples of top-level scouting doing its job well, the fact is that scouting and grading the potential of players is more efficient than ever.
With this efficiency of scouting and forecasting how prospects will fare at the major-league level in mind, we have decided to determine each of the 30 teams top prospect heading into 2014. In the process of determining who is most deserving of each team's No. 1 spot, we have taken into consideration minor-league results, skills shown and potential room for growth in the future and weighed them all together.
Arizona Diamondbacks-Archie Bradley
Coming off the back of a remarkable 2013 season Archie Bradley will enter the 2014 season as not only the Arizona Diamondback's top prospect, but one of the top prospects in all of baseball. In 2013, Bradley posted a statline of 14-5 with a 1.84 ERA and 162 strikeouts over 152 innings pitched while pitching in the High-A California League and AA Texas League. Bradley put on this show of domination because of his fantastic fastball that sits in the 93-95 mph region, a plus curveball and developing change-up. If Bradley is able to develop his change-up into a plus pitch in the future, it is likely that the 6-foot-4, 225-pound right-hander will become an All-Star caliber pitcher.
Atlanta Braves-Lucas Sims
After entering his second professional season in 2013 as a borderline top prospect Lucas Sims shot up the board for the Atlanta Braves with a great season. While pitching for the Rome Braves of the Low-Class A Sally League in 2013 Sims, recorded a 12-4 record with a 2.62 ERA and 134 strikeouts in 116 2/3 innings. =While at only 19 years of age, Sims is still a very young prospect. He is very projectable because of the fact that his change-up, fastball and curveball all project to be plus pitches in the major league level.
Baltimore Orioles-Dylan Bundy
After entering the 2013 season as the No. 2 prospect in all of baseball according to Baseball America, Dylan Bundy had a very disappointing 2013 season. Before Bundy could even get into a game, it was discovered that he needed Tommy John surgery, and on June 26, 2013, he underwent surgery. While this was a major setback that will result in Bundy returning to the field until the middle of the 2014 season at the earliest, there is still major reason to like his potential. The 20-year-old has a major power arm, and with the recent history of pitchers who have come back stronger after surgery, there is significant reason to believe that the Baltimore Orioles have an ace on their hands.
Boston Red Sox-Xander Bogaerts
Xander Bogaerts had been a top prospect for a significant amount of time coming into the 2013 season, and may have actually raised his profile with a .297/.388/.477 statline while playing for Double-A and Triple-A. After dominating these levels, Bogaerts received a call up to the Boston Red Sox, where he has posted a statline of .286/.350/.429 in 35 at-bats. Bogaerts will not receive enough at-bats to lose his prospect status going into the 2014 season, and with both a power bat and strong fielding ability, it would not be a stretch to see him ranked as high as the No. 2 prospect in all of baseball.
Chicago Cubs-Javier Baez
Javier Baez is the total package at shorstop, as he can field the ball, hit for average, hit for power and steal bases. In 2013, Baez hit .282/.341/.578 with 37 home runs, 111 RBIs and 20 stolen bases while playing in the Florida State League and Southern League. These are remarkable totals and will surely have Chicago Cubs fans salivating for the date that he will be arriving at Wrigley Field.
Chicago White Sox-Erik Johnson
At 6-foot-3 and 235 pounds, Erik Johnson has a large and projectable frame that bodes well for future success and maintaining health so that his power fastball, good slider and change-up can overpower hitters. During the 2013 season, Johnson recorded a 12-3 record with a 1.96 ERA over 142 innings pitched in Double-A and Triple-A before receiving a September call-up to Chicago. In three starts since arriving, he has gone 1-2 with a 2.87 ERA, indicating that he has the ability to take on major-league hitters. This comes as good news to White Sox fans, who will be counting on their best prospect to help what has been a dreadful rotation turn around in 2014.
Cincinnati Reds-Robert Stephenson
After posting a 7-7 record with a 2.99 ERA and 136 strikeouts in 114 2/3 innings while pitching in Low-A, High-A and Double-A, it is clear that Robert Stephenson has been overpowering minor league hitters. This overpowering stuff includes a fastball and curveball that have been previously described by Baseball America as the best in the Cincinnati Reds system. At only 20 years of age, Stephenson is still very young, but it would be no shock to see him become a permanent member of the Reds starting in 2015.
Cleveland Indians-Francisco Lindor
Francisco Lindor will likely never be a power hitter, but after watching him post a .303 average, .380 OBP and 25 stolen bases during the 2013 season, there is significant reason to believe that he can be a table setter at the big-league level. If Lindor can post somewhere close to this line at the big-league level, he will become one of the best shortstops in all of baseball, as there are no doubts about his ability to field the ball.
Colorado Rockies-Eddie Butler
During the 2013 season, Eddie Butler posted a 9-5 record with a 1.80 ERA and 143 strikeouts in 149 2/3 innings while pitching in Low-A,High-A and Double-A. This dominating 2013 statline was significantly aided by Butler's two-seam fast, which reaches the high-90s consistently and resulted in an impressive 2.14:1 ratio of ground outs to fly outs. If Butler is able to develop his change-up and slider into plus pitches, he could become a front of the rotation major-league pitcher, but if not it would be not surprise to see him to become a late-inning reliever.
Detroit Tigers-Nick Castellanos
Nick Castellanos is the prototypical corner outfielder prospect, as he is a great hitter but is still learning the ins and outs of being a left fielder after playing third base until the 2013 season. That position is clearly blocked by Miguel Cabrera, but after hitting .276 with 18 home runs and 37 doubles in Triple-A, it is evident that the Detroit Tigers will have another great bat to add to their lineup as soon as the 2014 season.
Houston Astros-Carlos Correa
Since becoming the first Puerto Rican drafted first overall in the 2012 draft, Carlos Correa been the default No. 1 pick in the Houston Astros' system. During the 2013 season, Correa posted a statline of .320/.405/.467 with nine home runs, 33 doubles and 86 RBIs, making it clear that he will once again enter the 2014 season as the Astros No. 1 prospect.
Kansas City Royals-Kyle Zimmer
With a fastball that consistently reaches 100-mph and plus secondary pitches, it is clear that Kyle Zimmer has the stuff to make it to the big leagues. During the 2013 season, he underwent some growing pains on this journey, but after making some adjustments, he was able to post a 4.32 ERA and 140 strikeouts in 108 1/3 innings while pitching in High-A and Double-A. At only 21 years of age, Zimmer has some time to improve on his flaws, but his ability to strikeout batters and power pitches bode well for future success once a better grasp for the nuances of pitching are developed.
Los Angeles Angels-CJ Cron
Playing in the Double-A Texas League in 2013, C.J. Cron showed the power that has earned him a place on this list. The first baseman put up a statline of .274/.319/.428 with 14 home runs and 36 doubles, leading many to believe that with more development in his physique that many of those doubles will turn into home runs. The biggest issue for Cron's development is that the position of first base will not be open for the Los Angeles Angels at any point in the near future, considering the fact that Albert Pujols has eight years remaining on his contract.
Los Angeles Dodgers-Joc Pederson
Miami Marlins-Andrew Heaney
Andrew Heaney has an array of pitches to throw at hitters that includes a plus fastball, curveball and developing change-up, and cutter. This array of pitches allows him to keep hitters guessing, and the left-hander was a force at the minor-league level in 2013. Heaney's combined statistics between High-A and Double-A were a 9-3 record with a 1.60 ERA and 89 strikeouts in 95 1/3 innings. One would expect him to go back to Double-A at least to being the 2014 season, but it would be no surprise to see him advance to Triple-A rather quickly.
Milwaukee Brewers-Jimmy Nelson
At 6-foot-6 and 245 pounds Jimmy Nelson is a monster of a human being. This big physique helps allow Nelson to throw a powerful four-seam fastball and two-seam fastball and slider, which helped him earn a 3.25 ERA and 163 strikeouts in 152 1/3 innings combined between the Southern and Pacific Coast League's in 2013. After the minor league season was over, Nelson received a brief call up to the Milwaukee Brewers, and it is likely that he will be a member of the team's starting rotation in 2014.
Minnesota Twins-Byron Buxton
Byron Buxton will enter the 2014 season as the best prospect in all of baseball, and for good reason considering the fact that he is the ultimate five-tool player. In 2013, Buxton posted a statline of .334/.424/.520 with 18 triples, 12 home runs, 77 RBIs, 55 stolen bases and 109 runs wile playing 125 games in the Midwest and Florida State Leagues. While Buxton will likely not be playing in Minnesota until at least the end of the 2014 season, there is little doubt that he will be a stud when he arrives.
New York Mets-Rafael Montero
After posting a 2.78 ERA and 150 strikeouts in 155 1/3 innings for the New York Mets Double-A and Triple-A affiliates during the 2013 season, it appears that Rafael Montero could be the next great young pitcher. Montero has a very solid combination of pitches in his fastball, change-up and slider that will help as he faces more advanced hitters, and after his great 2013 season, it seems that he will be given a chance to show his worth for a spot in the Mets rotation at Spring Training.
Mason Williams-New York Yankees
Mason Williams'best trait is that he is a great athlete, but he also sports adequate tools with a bat in his hands. During the 2013 season, he split time between High-A and Double-A, combining to post a statline of .245/.304/.337 with four homeruns, 24 doubles and 15 stolen bases. Williams' average and OBP were brought down because of a poor showing at Double-A, and will result in having to show his worth at the level in 2014 before the New York Yankees even consider a promotion.
Oakland A's-Addison Russell
Addison Russell is very young at only 19 years of age, but has already spent a full season at the High-A level and been successful while doing it. During the 2013 season, Russell hit .275 with 10 triples, 17 home runs, 29 doubles and 21 stolen bases, showing that he is an all-around hitter and is a very good baserunner. While he still has at least a full season before making it to Oakland, it appears that the franchise has their shortstop of the future in Russell.
Philadelphia Phillies-Maikel Franco
Maikel Franco is a third baseman who is known for his ability to absolutely mash the ball, which he did at the High-A and Double-A levels during the 2013 season to a tune of 31 home runs, 36 doubles and a .320 average. While Franco does need to develop his strategy at the plate, there is considerable reason to believe that he can become a big-time power hitter for the Philadelphia Phillies in the future.
Pittsburgh Pirates-Gregory Polanco
Gregory Polanco is a center field prospect who came out of nowhere during the 2012 season, and kept on humming in 2013. He spent most of his time between High-A and Double-A during the season, posting a statline of .285/.356/.434 with 30 doubles, 12 home runs and 38 stolen bases. On top of this ability offensively, Polanco has great range and an above average arm in the outfield. Look for Polanco to debut in Pittsburgh late in 2014, and to develop into an above average defender who contributes roughly a .270 average with 15 home runs and 30 stolen bases per year at the major-league level.
San Diego Padres-Max Fried
During his second year in professional baseball, Max Fried played in the Class-A Midwestern League, compiling a 3.49 ERA and 100 strikeouts in 118 2/3 innings. Fried possesses a fastball that sits in the low-90s, an above-average curveball and a change-up that is still developing. While he may not be in the major leagues until 2016, Fried's high-end stuff and projectable 6-foot-4 frame bodes well for future success.
San Francisco Giants-Kyle Crick
During the 2013 season, Kyle Crick dominated hitters in the High-A California League, posting a 1.57 ERA and 95 strikeouts in 68 2/3 innings pitched. Crick used a dominating fastball and curveball to get through A-Ball, but will need to develop his change-up and slider to make it to the big leagues. Still, the San Francisco Giants look like they have a potential top of the rotation guy in Crick.
Seattle Mariners-Taijuan Walker
Taijuan Walker is an ace in the making, as he already sports an above-average fastball and curveball and has a devloping change-up. During the 2013 season, he split time between Double-A and Triple-A, posting a 2.93 ERA and 160 strikeouts in 141 1/3 innings, before receiving a late season call up from the Seattle Mariners. After impressing during his stinting the major leagues, it seems probable that Walker may never pitch another game in the minor leagues.
St. Louis Cardinals-Oscar Taveras
Oscar Taveras will be one of the top prospects in all of baseball entering the 2014 season, although he will likely lose his prospect eligibility very shortly. This is because after watching Taveras post a .306 average in 45 games in Triple-A this season there is a large consensus that he should begin the 2014 season as the Cardinals starting center fielder. If he is able to stay healthy, there is little doubt that Taveras will become one of the best hitters in all of baseball shortly upon arriving in St. Louis.
Tampa Bay Rays-Alex Colome
While at 24 years of age, there is no doubt that Alex Colome is getting older for a prospect, there is also no doubting that he has a very live arm. Colome's pitching array includes a fastball that sits in the mid-90s, an above-average curveball and a developing cut fastball. After posting a 3.07 ERA and 72 strikeouts in 70 1/3 innings pitched, Colome developed an elbow strain that would end his season, but it would be no surprise to see him open the 2014 season in the Tampa Bay Rays' rotation.
Texas Rangers-Luis Sardinas
Luis Sarinas is the next big-time shortstop in what seems to be a never-ending chain in the Texas Rangers system. Much like Jurickson Profar and Elvis Andrus before him, Sardinas is a slick fielder, but a somewhat light hitter as Sardinas only posted a .288/.340/.347 with two home runs in the 2013 season. Sardinas projects to be great fielding shortstop at the big-league level, although he will likely have to move from Texas to become a starter.
Toronto Blue Jays-Aaron Sanchez
Aaron Sanchez boasts a very impressive fastball and curveball, and with a 6-foot-4, 190-pound frame has the necessary build to develop even further in the future. After recording a 3.34 ERA and 75 strikeouts in 86 1/3 innings in the Florida State League in 2013, Sanchez will be headed off to pitch in the Arizona Fall League. If he is able to impress there, it is likely that he will begin the 2014 season in Double-A, and could be a stalwart in the Toronto Blue Jays' rotation beginning with the 2015 season.
Washington Nationals-Lucas Giolito
While Lucas Giolito is very young at only 19 years of age, his potential is huge and his results during the 2013 season were exceptional, especially considering he had Tommy John Surgery in August of 2012. Giolito appeared in 11 games in the Gulf Coast and New York Penn League's, posting a 2-1 record with a 1.96 ERA and 39 strikeouts in 36 1/3 innings. Giolito's youth will serve him well heading into the 2014 season, and if he can develop a third plus pitch to complement his fastball and curveball, it is likely that he will provide another top of the rotation starter for the Washington Nationals by 2016 at the latest.