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2014 AL Impact Rookies

With the two-game Australian series less than a week away, the 2014 major league season is upon us.  While many media outlets have started publishing their predictions on MVP and CY Young winners, here at Prospect361.com, it’s time to discuss which prospect will grow into an impact rookie for their major league team.

The American League is stacked with potential impact rookie performers.  In fact eight players on our Top 100 prospect list will likely break camp with their teams.   Not all of these players will perform; in fact, it’s likely that some will get demoted at some point during the season.

I have listed the Top 10 players that I believe will have the most impact with their teams in 2014.   I wanted to go deeper and include talents such as Kevin Gausman, Kyle Zimmer, and Marcus Stroman but time did not permit.  I did include five off-the-grid players that people might not be thinking about.

Jose Abreu (1B, CHW) – ETA: Start of the season

Abreu is big and strong and while I wrote in my pre-season write-up that he could struggle against elite velocity, after seeing him in Spring Training, the swing is shorter and more compact than I thought.  While it was a small sample size, I am moving my batting average projection on him up slightly.  20 home runs look like a lock with an upside for 25+.  He’ll hit in the middle of the order and should be able to put up above average counting stats.

Projected Stat Line: 500 AB, 26 HR, 0 SB, 95 RBI, 85 Runs

Xander Bogaerts (SS, Bos) – ETA: Start of the season

If it weren’t for Abreu, the favorite for AL Rookie of the year would be Xander Bogaerts.  He ranked second overall on our Top 100 list and showed what his immense talent can produce on the biggest stage last fall.  Bogaerts is an advanced hitter with great plate awareness and discipline and should be able to hit from the start.  Yes, many rookies do struggle and Bogaerts could as well, but he’s hit at every level and I expect the same thing to happen this season.

Projected Stat Line: 550 AB, .282 BA, 17 HR, 9 SB, 75 RBI, 70 Runs

Nick Castellanos (3B, Det) –ETA: Start of the season

Another early season favorite for Rookie of the year is Detroit third baseman Nick Castellanos.  As with Bogaerts, Castellanos has a plus hit-tool but doesn’t have the same power upside as the Boston shortstop.  His great hand-to-eye coordination and quick line-drive stroke will eventually move him to the two or three hole but with the powerful 2014 Detroit lineup, he’ll likely hit seventh which will limit his overall production.

Projected Stat Line: 550 AB, .270 BA, 18 HR, 1 SB, 65 RBI, 58 Runs

Yordano Ventura (SP, KC) – ETA: Start of the season

Yordano Ventura will likely average the highest velocity of any major league pitcher – somewhere north of 95 MPH.  While he only stands 5-foot-11, the Royals are smart to move him into the starting rotation early in his career as long-term, a move to the bullpen might be warranted.  But for 2014, he could be electric; posting impressive strikeout totals while playing in a pitchers park for a team that can score a lot of runs.  If you’re looking for a sleeper ROY, here he is…

Projected Stat Line:  175 IP, 14 Wins, 185K, 3.45 ERA, 1.21 WHIP

George Springer (OF, Hou) – ETA: Mid-June to avoid Super-2 status

In most every other organization, George Springer would already have an official major league stat line.  However, Springer plays for the Astros and they’ve had no incentive to promote him to Houston.  2014 will change that and the Houston Astros fans will finally get a chance to see what a bonafide star resembles…and you know how much I love Jose Altuve.  While I wish Springer would change his approach, particularly his two-strike approach, the power and speed should be there in 2014.  Given how hard he hits the ball and his plus running speed, Springer should get some BABIP help with his average.  However, don’t expect him to equal his career .299 minor league batting average; but if he does, he WILL win the Rookie of the Year going away.

Projected Stat Line: 375 AB, .255 BA, 17 HR, 19 SB, 60 RBI, 60 Runs

Masahiro Tanaka (SP, NYY) – ETA: Start of the season

Yes, Tanaka is a rookie and needs to be on this list but at $22 million dollars per year, he better be an impact player.  The question is will he?  I think he’ll be very good but will not have the same impact that fellow countryman Yu Darvish had in his rookie season.   His arsenal is above-average, accented by the much talked about splitter, but there WILL be adjustments to the Major League game and Yankees Stadium will not be kind.  Expect impact but not Rookie of the Year.

Projected Stat Line:  175 IP, 12 Wins, 160K, 3.85 ERA, 1.24 WHIP

Erik Johnson (SP, CHW) – ETA: Start of the season

Erik Johnson will be a very good major league baseball pitcher.  He won’t go in the Top 20 of starting pitchers in a fantasy draft, but he’s the kind of player that will be consistently good while earning $12 million dollars per year.  I expect him to be better than league average in 2014 with a ceiling of a 3.60 ERA pitcher.

Projected Stat Line:  170 IP, 10 Wins, 155K, 3.80 ERA, 1.20 WHIP

Jonathan Schoop (2B/3B, Bal) – ETA: Start of the season or Mid-June if the Orioles want to avoid Super-2 status

Schoop has been one of my favorite prospects since I first saw him in 2011.  I saw bat speed and a body that would add strength.  Three years later, Schoop has filled out and should produce plus power in the major leagues.  He’s still a very aggressive hitter and will strikeout a lot but should be able to put up 20+ home runs as an eventually number six hitter.

While there’s a chance he starts the year with the Orioles, don’t be surprised if he is sent back down after some initial struggle.  However, I’m confident that he’ll figure it out and provide both offensive and defensive contribution.  Orioles fans and fantasy owners need to be patient.

Projected Stat Line:  350 AB, .250 BA, 12 HR, 4 SB, 45 RBI, 40 Runs

Taijuan Walker (SP, Sea) – ETA: May after he recovers from his shoulder issue

Taijuan Walker has immense talent but is still very young and relatively new to pitching.  Assuming he recovers from his shoulder issue, he should get his chance to shine in Seattle.  SafeCo will clearly help the talented right-hander but he is likely to be inconstant and end the season as a league average pitcher.  Also, I believe he needs to modify his mechanics to get more extension on his pitches and thus reduce the stress on his shoulder.  Long-term, I’m all in.  For 2014, not so…

Projected Stat Line:  125 IP, 7 Wins, 130K, 4.15 ERA, 1.31 WHIP

Matt Davidson (3B, CHW) – ETA: Start of the season

Equipped with plus raw power, Matt Davidson moves to one of the best home run parks in the Majors and should put up 20+ home run numbers on an annual basis.  However, 2014 could be a difficult year for the 23-year-old slugger as I believe the swing and miss in his game (72% career minor league contact rate) will only get worse as he faces tougher competition.   Expect some struggles and less than 400 at-bats in Chicago.

Projected Stat Line: 340 AB, .235 BA, 12 HR, 2 SB, 40 RBI, 35 Runs

Off-the-grid players

Marcus Semien (MI, CHW)

Marcus Semien got a taste of the majors last year and played well.  Gordon Beckham’s oblique injury could open the door for Semien and quite frankly, he might take the job and hold it.  There’s talent in the young 23-year-old and he should officially be on all fantasy owners radar.

Carlos Moncrief (OF, Cle)

Carlos Moncrief started off his professional career on the bump but moved to the outfield in 2011.  He’s extremely athletic with both power and speed and could be an injury away from significant playing time in Cleveland.

Billy Burns (OF, Oak)

Is the Billy Hamilton skill set going to work?  I’m not sure but what gives me a little more confidence is that the innovative Oakland Athletics traded for another Billy with a similar skill set in Billy Burns.  He’s fast, makes slappy contact and could steal 14 bases in September.  Remember the name.

 Alex Meyer (SP, Min)

Maybe not totally off the grid, but most baseball fans still think the Minnesota Twins are using a starting rotation that consist of a bunch of number four and five starter.  Er, well…  Alex Meyer should stop the practice and that should happen this year.  He’s 6-foot-7 and can lose his release point, but he works down in the zone and will rack up the strikeouts.  Look for a Mid-June call-up.

Addison Russell (SS, Oak)

Most everyone has heard of Addison Russell , but most people are not considering him to contribute in 2014.  He will and he’ll be very good.  You read it here first…

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6 comments on “2014 AL Impact Rookies

  1. Hello,

    what is the very earliest we could possible see Mr Buxton?

  2. Exactly what I was looking for, thanks Rich

  3. Are you expecting a much better BA for Abreu than before? That was my main concern with him

    • Sorry for the double post, I clickd prematurely…. All the talk on your podcast with Tim was that Springer wouldn’t see th MLB this year. Did the organization say something to point otherwise? Thanks Rich, great stuff as always

      • Yeah, I think Abreu will have a better average…slightly. Springer was always going to come up, just the timing has been in question. I’ve always maintained, mid June. I guess we were not clear. We’ll work on that. Thanks…

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