2014 MLB Top Prospects: Final Revision
1. Byron Buxton, OF, Minnesota Twins; 12/18/1993
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
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.
3. Oscar Taveras, OF, St. Louis Cardinals; 6/19/1992
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
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.
5. Taijuan Walker, RHP, Seattle Mariners; 8/13/1992
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
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
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. Javier Baez, SS, Chicago Cubs; 12/1/1992
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
Like the Pirates need another gifted outfielder. With Andrew McCutchen in center and Starling Marte in left, Polanco will likely man right, providing Pittsburgh with three outfielders capable of playing center field while producing solid numbers across the board. Polanco, though, looks like a better all-around player than Marte, showing gap power, speed, and a very good approach at the plate. He may not be an MVP candidate like “Cutch”, but he’ll provide value in Pittsburgh for quite some time as a definitive upgrade over the Jose Tabata, Garrett Jones, and Travis Snider parade that has provided very little value over the last several seasons.
16. Albert Almora, OF, Chicago Cubs; 4/16/1994
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.
17. Nick Castellanos, 3B/OF, Detroit Tigers; 3/4/1992
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
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
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
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
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.
22. Lucas Giolito, RHP, Washington Nationals; 7/14/1994
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
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
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
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. .
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
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
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
60. Gary 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
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