We conclude our two-part series on 2014 impact rookies by moving to the National League. As with the American League, the NL is stacked with potential impact rookie performers. However, there is only one player in our Top 100 Prospect List who is likely to break camp with his team – Billy Hamilton…and it could be special.
I have listed the Top 10 players that I believe will have the most impact with their teams in 2014. I also included five off-the-grid players that people might not be thinking about.
Billy Hamilton (OF, Cin) – ETA: Start of the Season
The average time to hear a Billy Hamilton mention on the MLB Network is 37 minutes…really…it’s been verified by an Accounting firm somewhere. Hamilton will be this years “must see” baseball player. The speed is ridiculous and the stolen bases could tally close to 100. Will he hit enough to keep his job? Yeah, I think he will. Let the fun begin.
Projected Stat Line: 600 AB, .265 BA, .310 OBP, 1 HR, 90 SB, 23 RBI, 130 Runs
Archie Bradley (SP, Ari) – ERA: Mid-June or when the Diamondbacks come to their senses
Archie Bradley is nearly big league ready and is one of the best arms in the minor leagues. Yes, his fastball command could be better and he would benefit from time in the minors. However, he would also be the ace the of Diamondbacks staff if he started the year with the team. Time to bring him up.
Projected Stat Line: 110 IP, 9 Wins, 90K, 3.55 ERA, 1.24 WHIP
Javier Baez (SS/2B, CHC) – ETA: Mid-June to avoid Super-2 Status
A shortstop that can hit 30+ home runs and steal double digit stolen bases don’t come around very often. Javier Baez could produce to that level almost immediately. Yes, he likes to swing the pole and there will be some swing and miss in his game. However, his premium bat speed and innate ability to barrel the ball is going to erase a lot of the strikeouts. If Castro starts the year on the DL and Baez forces his way onto the roster for the entire year, he will beat out Billy Hamilton for NL ROY. Count on it.
Projected Stat Line: 380 AB, .270 BA, 21 HR, 11 SB, 68 RBI, 60 Runs
Gregory Polanco (OF, Pit) – ETA: Mid-June to avoid Super-2 Status
Gregory Polanco might have the highest offensive upside in the entire minor leagues. The progress he has made over the past two-years has been remarkable and he is on the door step of the big leagues. The power is still developing but the speed is there. From a fantasy standpoint, the only concerns is that the speed will start to dwindle before the power truly takes off. For me, he’ll have a couple of 30/30 years before he becomes a 15/35 guy. Oh yeah, I’m all in.
For 2014, he’ll be good, not great. However, the upside still warrants a number three ranking on the Top NL Impact Rookies.
Projected Stat Line: 360 AB, .275 BA, 9 HR, 17 SB, 55 RBI, 60 Runs
Chris Owings (SS, Ari) – ETA: Start of the Season (I hope)
I’m basing this projection on Chris Owings getting the starting shortstop job out of Spring Training. I know, I’m being optimistic, but Owings is better than Gregorius…come on now. Assuming he gets considerable plate appearances, Owings could put up high single-digit home runs and close to 20 stolen bases. He makes good contact but his aggressive approach will hurt his OBP.
Projected Stat Line: 480 AB, .270 BA, 8 HR, 19 SB, 35 RBI, 75 Runs
Jameson Taillon (SP, Pit) – ETA: Mid-June to avoid Super-2 Status
Jameson Taillon prospect star fell a little in 2013 but I still consider him an elite talent with the ceiling of a Top 20 pitcher in all of baseball. Assuming he stays healthy, he should join Gregory Polanco in Pittsburgh and pitch quite well. While it might not Cole-ish, it could be very close. Health is a concern as his arm action is not clean and he suffers from his elbow getting above his shoulder on his delivery.
Projected Stat Line: 95 IP, 6 Wins, 85K, 3.55 ERA, 1.22 WHIP
Noah Syndergaard (SP, NYM) – ETA: Mid-June to avoid Super-2 Status
The Mets dream of a rotation of Harvey, Wheeler, and Syndergaard during the second half of 2014 will not happen, but Mets fans will be able to see two-thirds of the future staff. Syndergaard could be special and provide a very similar stat line to what Zack Wheeler did in 2013.
Projected Stat Line: 102 IP, 8 Wins, 90K, 3.80 ERA, 1.27 WHIP
Oscar Taveras (OF, STL) – ETA: July or when somebody gets injured
With the depth at the major league level, the Cardinals have the luxury to move slowly with one of the best prospects in the entire game – Oscar Taveras. Taveras is good, very good, but his troubled ankle is still not 100% and he needs time to knock the rust off; not to mention, some development. When will he arrive? Nobody knows, but it will likely take an injury or Matt Adams not hitting. I’ve taken the middle ground and put his arrival in July.
Projected Stat Line: 330 AB, .270 BA, 14 HR, 3 SB, 60 RBI, 55 Runs
Andrew Heaney (SP, Mia) – ETA: June
Could this be Jose Fernandez Part Two? No, but you know, Andrew Heaney is a really good pitcher and the Marlins have proven to be very aggressive with their prospects and I expect that to continue with Heaney. Expect Heaney to be promoted when he’s ready.
Projected Stat Line: 105 IP 7 Wins, 80K, 3.45 ERA, 1.27 WHIP
Maikel Franco (3B, Phi) – ETA: July
I don’t know where he plays but the Phillies need to find out what they have in Maikel Franco and that should happen sometime in the second half of the year. He’s got plus power and should be able to make enough contact to sport an average hit tool. A lot will depend on how well Cody Ashe does at the hot corner and therefore, I suspect there will be opportunity.
Projected Stat Line: 320 AB, .255 BA, 12 HR, 1 SB, 50 RBI, 45 Runs
Kris Bryant (3B, CHC) – ETA: July
Could Kris Bryant be the first 2013 drafted player to arrive in the Big Leagues? While I would put the possibility of more than a September call-up at less than 50/50, his immense talent just might force the issue. The power is going to be plus-plus with easy 30 home run potential. There will be swing and miss in the bat and the average could settle around the .260 mark, but together, it’s an all-star package.
Projected Stat Line: 280 AB, .240 BA, 12 HR, 2 SB, 50 RBI, 45 Runs
Steven Souza (OF, Was)
I don’t know where he plays, but Steven Souza is going to force the issue in Washington before the end of the year. He’s a great athlete with plus raw power and plus running speed that has spent a lot of time fighting demons that now seem to be a thing of the past. It’s a great redemption story that will end in the Major Leagues sometime this year.
Kyle Parker (OF/1B, Col)
The Rockies signed Justin Morneau to a two-year deal and that slowed the assent of Kyle Parker to the majors. However, he’s nearly big league ready and needs an injury to get the call. I have even-money that he gets the call and contributes in a meaningful way in 2014.
Christian Bethancourt (C, Atl)
I love the Evan Gattis story but he’s a below average defensive catcher and Ryan Doumit isn’t any better. Bethancourt is an elite defensive catcher and has some pop as well. I think he gets the call sometime during the year and logs over 200 at-bats for the Braves.
Keyvious Sampson (SP, SD)
The Padres have been debating whether Keyvious Sampson should start or come out of the bullpen. I’m betting he starts and there will be opportunity in San Diego before the season is over. I have the over/under at 15 starts; and I think they will be pretty good starts.
Rafael Montero (SP, NYM)
He’s not off-the-grid but should be mentioned in an article about rookie impact players. The stuff isn’t elite but he throws strikes, knows how to pitch, and CitiField is kind to pitchers. There’s been talk that the Mets will move him to the pen. I’m betting they don’t and Montero becomes an important piece in the Mets starting rotation.