As we head into the midway point of the minor league season, it’s time to profile our Top 50 mid-season prospects. The list contains only players who have minor league eligibility and who ARE NOT currently on a major league roster. That rules out Gregory Polanco and even Eddie Butler (who is on the major league DL).
The list contains eight shortstops, five catchers and 22 pitchers, clearly showing that third base and first base are becoming scarce commodities. Granted, many shortstops will move to third and first baseman are usually made and not born, but it’s interesting nonetheless to the see the current dynamics.
As always, please provide me your feedback and questions and I’ll do the best I can to respond.
It’s been a lost year for the best prospect in baseball as injuries have kept Byron Buxton on the sideline for all but five games. This will clearly delay his arrival to Minnesota until very late in 2015 or more likely 2016, but the wait will be worth it. He has all the tools in the shed, including the most important one – the ability to hit with a mature approach, particularly for someone his age. Stay all in!
Kris Bryant just added a home run derby plaque to his trophy case as he blasted bomb after bomb in the 2014 Double-A all-star game. It capped off one of the best performances in the first half with Bryant posting a slash line of .355/.458/.702 while slugging 22 home runs. It’s not perfect as there is length in the swing that has led to 77 strikeouts in 248 at- bats, but it’s an all-star profile that should start showing up in Chicago next year.
When Oscar Taveras got the call to the majors on May 31st, I truly believed that he had left the minor league circuit for good. However, he didn’t hit and St. Louis has a lot of mouths to feed in the outfield and Taveras is back in the minors. The profile is still that of an all-star with a .300/30/100 stat line as the ceiling. Stay all-in and in fact, in a Dynasty League, try to acquire him by promoting his .189 batting average that he posted in his big league debut.
I had a chance to see Carlos Correa during the season opening weekend in Lancaster California and was candidly, blown away. Great swing and approach with plus power potential. He’s a big guy and could eventually grow out of shortstop, but not for a while. When do we see him in Houston? I believe he’s closer than anyone thinks, but it’s at least late in 2015, but more likely 2016. Then again, he’s closer than you think…
As with Byron Buxton, Addison Russell has spent a lot more time on the trainer’s table than on the playing field. He’s now back and I expect Russell to move quickly. Every time I’ve seen him play, he screams “Star”. He’s athletic with a great hit tool and bat speed that should produce 20 home runs. There’s also speed in his game and a 20/20 player at shortstop should be in the cards.
Diamondback fans and fantasy owners expected the top pitching prospect in the game to be in Arizona by now. However, an elbow injury has caused Archie Bradley to miss nearly two months and a major league debut in 2014 is looking unlikely. Additionally, Roving Pitching Coordinator Dave Duncan publically criticized Bradley’s lack of secondary pitches as well as his fastball command and concluded that he needed a lot more work. That might be true but the talent and athleticism is very high and assuming he comes back healthy from his elbow injury, you should continue to invest.
Dylan Bundy became part of the epidemic as he had Tommy John surgery in 2013. He’s now back on the bump and looks healthy. There’s an outside chance that he could see Baltimore for 8-10 starts in 2014 but the Orioles will not push their prize prospect. While others will discount Bundy given the uncertainty of his recovery, I’m being very bullish and maintaining that he is still very much a top pitching prospect with the ceiling of a number one.
Jonathan Gray has all the elements of an ace. He has a plus arsenal, the ability to throw strikes, and the physicality to log innings. While 2014 has been very good for Gray, he’s had some difficult outings, giving up six and eight earned runs in two of those starts. While that will happen to anyone, Gray does have a violent delivery and can lose his release point resulting in poor command. When this happens, it can get ugly. Nothing is perfect and neither is Gray, but it’s very, very good.
I’ve been a little light on Francisco Lindor, believing that his offensive output would never make him a top 10 fantasy shortstop option. I’m starting to amend that slightly, believing that he could develop into a Top 7-10 shortstop contributor. The bat control and plate discipline is clearly evident and he’s making the most of his above average speed with the ability to steal 20-25 bases at the highest level. While he’s still only in Double-A, expect to see him at some point in the second half in Cleveland; at a minimum for a September call-up.
In spring training, Javier Baez looked to be nearly big league ready as he slugged five home runs in a limited sample size of 53 at-bats. However the development process can be cruel and young Mr. Baez has found that out. In 219 at-bats, he’s has struck out an alarming 82 times and walked only 15. The batting average sits at .219. In a nutshell, Baez overly aggressive style has been exposed and he has had trouble picking up off-speed pitches. The good news is that he’s the youngest player in Triple-A and he still has that crazy bat speed that should produce significant home run totals. After over 200 at-bats, it’s time to be concerned but not to panic.
I had a chance to see Corey Seager last year during his first week in High-A and he looked totally over matched. He was unable to identify breaking pitches and played very timid. Spin forward 60 games, and Seager looks like the elite prospect his raw talent suggest. He is a free swinger and that could hurt his batting average long-term but he has plus power potential with a great left-handed swing. I expect him to move to Double-A in the second half and potentially be an option in Los Angeles in 2015.
Early in the spring, word spread that Miguel Sano had hurt his elbow during winter ball. After rest and rehab didn’t work, Sano had Tommy John surgery on March 13 and will miss the entire 2014 season. There is a chance though that Sano will see time in the Arizona Fall League, following the timeframe of Washington Nats third baseman Matt Skole. Assuming he returns to form, the 80-grade raw power gives him a 30 plus home run ceiling with a late 2015 Minnesota debut or more likely, a 2016 debut.
Taijuan Walker has been slowed by a shoulder injury in 2014 but now appears healthy. There’s a good chance that he will be in Seattle by the all-star break and despite tremendous upside, has taken a step backwards. In an effort to find better command, he’s shorten his stride and now has lost some of the explosiveness on his pitches. Plus, he’s finishing more upright, pushing all the kenetic energy to his pitching shoulder upon his landing. I still love the elite athleticism and arsenal potential and therefore, he’s still ranked quite high for me.
There are a lot of similarities between Joc Pederson and George Springer. Both are blessed with bat speed, plus power potential, and above-average speed. However, both will have swing and miss in their game but Pederson has better plate discipline and should have the superior OBP. From a fantasy standpoint, Pederson’s profile will play very well. The floor is likely a 20/20 player with upside on both sides of the equation. It’s likely to come with downward pressure on his batting average, but most fantasy owners will take it.
I was very bullish on Hunter Harvey entering the season and stuffed him at number 59 on out Top 100 pre-season rankings. He’s done nothing but excel in 2014, showing a plus fastball that sits 92-94 MPH that can scrap higher and a plus curve that is making Sally League batters look silly. He has struggled in his past few starts and could be tiring. However, as with Dylan Bundy before him, he’s likely not going to be challenged until he reaches Double-A.
No player in minor league baseball has improved his stock more than Mookie Betts. He completely dominated Double-A, posting a .355/.443/.551 slash line while stealing 21 of 24 bases. In his move to Triple-A, he’s not missed a beat, continuing to walk more than he strikes out while posting an .883 OPS. The Red Sox have also moved him to center field and while it’s not a Jackie Bradley profile, it’s ok and given the lack of offense in Boston, you have to believe that Betts tenure in Pawtucket will be short-lived.
You can make an argument that Lucas Giolito should be a Top 10 prospect at this point. He has two plus, monster pitches in his fastball that can touch the upper 90’s and a wipe-out curve ball. His change-up is still developing and his command is still inconsistent, but all the elements are there for him to be a top-of-the-rotation mainstay. While Giolito’s innings will be limited this year, the fast track to the majors should start next year with a 2016 ETA not out of the question.
While a 4.78 ERA doesn’t look impressive, Noah Syndergaard is still an elite pitching prospect. He’s just getting torched like many before him have experienced in Las Vegas. The simple truth is his plus curve ball is staying straight and he’s walking too many. The Mets are still very bullish on the 6-foot-6 right-hander and he might have already made his New York debut had it not been for an elbow strain that now appears to be behind him.
I missed Crawford on my first trip to Lakewood New Jersey but was rewarded in a subsequent trip to a 2 for 4 evening and an impressive batting practice. Crawford combines premium bat speed with graceful, quick twitch athleticism. He hits the ball hard and while he’s currently more of a gap hitter, eventually those balls will be clearing the fences. He does have above average speed but he’s currently only 14 for 21 in stolen bases. He’s been promoted to High-A and clearly looks like the heir apparent to Jimmy Rollins.
Taken as the number one overall draft pick in the 2014 first year player draft, Brady Aiken combines impressive pitchability and command for a 17-year-old high schooler. The arsenal is above average with a 91-93 MPH fastball with a plus curve. While some have comp’d him to Clayton Kershaw because of the curve ball, others, including Astros General Manager Jeffrey Lunhow have comp’d him to Andy Pettitte. Even if it’s Pettitte, I think fantasy owners will take that in a heart beat
Ok, I was wrong about Joey Gallo. I didn’t think he would hit enough to get to his prodigious power. But, he’s changed his approach and most importantly, his two-strike approach and has improved both his strikeout rate and walk rate. He’s not going to hit .300 at the highest level, but he could hit .250 and oh yeah, hit 40 plus bombs a year. Like I said, I was wrong.
Carlos Rodon was the 2014 consensus number one pick for nearly a year, but his stock took a hit as both his arsenal and command showed inconsistency in his junior year and he fell to number three overall. Rodon’s money pitch is his slider. It grades out as a solid 70 offering and when it’s on, it’s unhittable. To finish off the arsenal, he also has a plus fastball and above average change-up. He’s nearly big league ready and with Don Cooper waiting to work with the 6-foot-2 lefty, he could be a very effective major league pitcher as early as the second half of 2015.
When Henry Owens repeats his delivery, he can be nearly unhittable. The arsenal is elite with a plus fastball and a plus-plus change-up. However, at 6-foot-6, the mechanics will continue to be a work in progress for a while but if he can put it together, he has the stuff to be a CY Young contender. While he has an outside chance to see Boston in 2014, it’s likely to be in the pen, which candidly, could be a lot of fun.
I’m a little surprised that Jimmy Nelson is on this list as I fully expected him to be in the majors by now, helping the Milwaukee Brewers win a pennant. Nelson has been one of the best pitchers in the minors this year, taming the difficult PCL League with a 1.62 ERA and a 91K/26BB strikeout-to-walk ratio in 83.1 IP. He’s nearly ready and it’s just a matter of time before he’s a mainstay in the Brewers rotation.
At 6-foot-9 and 220 pounds, Alex Meyer provides quite a challenge for hitters. He gets excellent downward plane and extension on his pitches which freezes hitters and causes a ton of ground balls. While his size will always make it difficult for him to have pinpoint control, the arsenal will always make it difficult for hitters to square him up. Plus, his control will improve and when it does, he could be quite a force.
Robert Stephenson has not taken the expected step-up this year that I would have thought. He still has an electric fastball/curveball combination with both pitches grading out as plus offerings. The problem has been a lack of control and pitching up in the zone which has caused him to give up seven home runs in 70 innings. I’m still very bullish on Stephenson but he’s going to have to perform better before the Reds feel comfortable moving him to the majors.
Kyle Zimmer has yet to post a stat line in 2014 and was shut down again in late May with a lat strain. Based on these setbacks, it would be surprising if we saw him in Kansas City this summer but the Royals are in the playoff hunt and he has a chance to be a difference maker. When healthy, he’s one of the best pitching prospects in the league with a fastball that sits 92-95 MPH and a curveball that grades out as a solid 70 pitch. Throw in his ability to pound the strike zone and the package could be quite special.
After dominating the Texas league with a 10.50 K/9 and a 1.80 BB/9, the San Diego Padres promoted Matt Wisler to Triple-A so that he could continue his dominance. Well, it hasn’t work out so well, as his sinking fastball isn’t sinking and his plus slider is straighter than it should be. Welcome to the Pacific Coast League! Don’t fret gang, the arsenal is there as is the control and command; throw in he’ll be pitching half of his games in Petco Park and it’s looking like a package you need to own.
Blake Swihart has made one of the more impressive jumps in our rankings as not only has his scouting reports been stellar, he’s also putting up an impressive stat line in Double-A. He makes excellent contact with an advanced approach, but more importantly, we are starting to see the power shine through. If this continues, Swihart has a chance to be an all-star caliber catcher with an offensive profile of 20-25 home runs and a .280 batting average.
As with many of this list, Jorge Soler’s season has been interrupted by injuries – first with a left hamstring strain and most recently, with a right hamstring strain. More disconcerting is Soler has not been able to stay healthy since the Cubs signed him out of Cuba in 2012. When healthy, Soler profiles as a prototypical power hitting right fielder with a ceiling of 25 plus home runs. When will Chicagoans eventually see this? I’m guessing the second half of 2015.
The glove is ready and if Austin Hedges were promoted to San Diego tomorrow, he’d be a top 10 defensive catcher. The offensive continues to lag behind, although the swing and the approach still point to an average hit tool with the potential for above-average power. While it could take several years, the ceiling is still a 15-18 home run catcher with a .270-.280 batting average.
It’s easy to dismiss Raul Mondesi’s 2014 stat line and label him a good, but not great prospect. Don’t let the .243 batting average fool you. He’s got great tools including excellent bat speed with natural bat-to-ball skills and is only 18 years-old while playing in High-A. He’s the perfect buy-low candidate in a Dynasty League as you’ll be able to highlight his disappointing slash line, but know, the ceiling is still sky-high.
Yeah, I know…it’s been awful and you can definitely make a case that Mark Appel should not be included on a Top 50 list. The stat line shows an 11.94 ERA, the airplane manifesto shows a demotion to the Complex League to sort things out. However, he still has three above-average pitches and outstanding mechanics. Maybe he’s hurt? Maybe he’s struggling to adjust to professional baseball? In any respect, you just can’t give up on a profile like Mark Appel possess – and yes, I could be totally wrong!
Tyler Glasnow started the year on the DL but returned to action in late April and has shown both the stuff that has evaluators excited as well as the control that has them worried. The arm is electric with the ability to run his fastball into the upper nineties with improving secondary pitches. At times, he’s unhittable. For instance, this year in 42.2 innings, he’s given up 24 hits. He’s also walked 28 and therein lies the problem. At 6-foot-7, it’s going to take time, but if it comes together, like it has in his last 23.2 scoreless innings streak, it could be special. The ceiling is a number two starter or a lock-down closer.
Taken as the sixth pick in the 2014 first year player draft, Alex Jackson is a bat-first catching prospect that is likely to be moved to the outfield in order to accelerate his timeframe to the majors. The power profiles as plus-raw with the ability to hit for average. If it all comes together, he could be a power hitting right fielder with a ceiling of 25 home runs and a .280 average hitting in the middle of the lineup.
It’s downright impressive to think that a 17-year-old kid is posting over a strikeout an inning and a 2.61 ground-ball-to-flyball ratio in the California League. Well, that’s exactly what Julio Urias is doing. Despite being only 5-foot-11 and a 155 pounds, Urias has a plus fastball that sits 91-93 MPH with a lot of late life and a curve ball that continues to improve. He’s also able to keep the ball down in the zone and is getting a ton of ground balls. I would expect Urias to move to Double-A with an outside chance to see Los Angeles in 2015.
David Dahl has bounced back from an injury plagued year in 2013 and is starting to show the talent that got everyone excited about him in his draft year of 2012. He has above average bat speed that should translate into above-average future power as well as enough speed to steal 20 plus stolen bases at the highest level. He’s an aggressive hitter that will need to find a better balance, but overall, the total package will play quite well at the highest level. Throw in that he’ll be playing half of his games in Coors, and you could be looking at a fantasy stud.
I’ve gotten numerous positive reports on the Diamondbacks 2013 first round draft pick Braden Shipley. The mechanics have been cleaned up and his secondary pitches have improved. In June, he was promoted to High-A and has continued to pitch well, posting an 11.57 K/9 and a 3.86 BB/9 in 18.2 innings. This might be your last time to buy Shipley cheap and a smart Dynasty League owner should be plotting out an aggressive acquisition strategy.
It’s going to take a lot of dreaming, but I believe Clint Frazier still has a first division starter profile. Yes, he has a contact rate of 67% and he’s only hit four home runs, but the raw tools, including his elite bat speed is there. He’ll also play the entire year as a teenager in Low-A as he doesn’t turn 20 until September. The ceiling for me is still a power hitting corner outfielder with a .260 batting average and the ability to steal 10-15 bases early in his major league career.
There’s toolsy players and then there’s Jorge Alfaro. Blessed with plus bat speed, an 80-grade arm, and above average foot speed who just so happens to play behind the dish, there’s a lot to get excited about. Will he hit enough to allow the other tools to play? That’s the big question as he’s posting a 75% contact rate and a 6% walk rate. The swing is loose and the athleticism is clearly evident and I’m going to conclude that he will. He’s probably a couple of years away yet, but if it all comes together, it’s going to be special.
Up until this year, I had pretty much written Brandon Nimmo off as a bust. However, as with many prospects, it’s taken longer than our collectively attention disorder wanted to allow. The fact is Nimmo has an above average hit tool and bat speed that projects him to have 15-20 home run power at the highest level. He could also steal 6-8 stolen bases to round out the profile. Recently promoted to Double-A, Nimmo could be sniffing Queens by mid-season 2015. Of course they really don’t need him as Bobby Abreu seems to be doing just fine.
The Twins had been linked to Nick Gordon for several days leading up to the first year player draft and at approximately 7:30pm EDT, they got their guy. From all reports, Gordon has make-up off the charts but he also has serious skills; and skills that will play on your fantasy team. He has plus speed, not like his brother Dee, but speed that should translate to 30 stolen bases. He also has more pop than his brother and probably a better hit tool. Add it all up and you’ve got a top of the order hitter who can handle a bat, with speed and a little pop who stays at shortstop. Ranking him now at 42 might seem incredibly light in six months.
AA just doesn’t get a lot of love in prospect circles but the future second baseman for the Cubs is going to be a very nice fantasy asset. Yes, he’s an aggressive hitter which results in a low walk rate and a few too many strikeouts, but he also makes hard contact which should translate to 12-15 home runs annually. However, the real value comes in his stolen base potential. He’s a plus runner and should post 30 plus stolen bases annually. At a .260 batting average, that’s a solid $20 fantasy player.
I think the New York Mets got a steal by getting Michael Conforto as the tenth pick in the 2014 draft. He has a plus hit tool, showing great plate discipline at Oregon State with a 38K/55B strikeout-to-walk ratio in 203 at-bats. His home run power decreased in 2014 but he does have plenty of bat speed and at 6-foot-1 and 211 pounds, he has the profile to provide future plus power.
I had a chance to see Hunter Renfroe in both spring training and in early April in the Cali League. I wasn’t impressed. The power was there and he had more speed than I thought, but I wasn’t buying the swing. However, I had a chance to see him again at the High-A All-Star game and the Padres had cleaned up his swing. It was shorter to the ball and not as pull oriented. In any other systems, he would be higher in the rankings, but with Petco in his future, even plus power plays down a grade. Renfroe has been promoted to Double-A and let’s see if the lessons he learned in High-A translate.
Jameson Taillon has moved to the high risk/high reward category of prospect-land as he had Tommy John Surgery in April and is lost for the year. If he comes back healthy, he has the ceiling of a solid number two starter with high strikeout potential.
Gary Sanchez continues to fly below the radar as an elite prospect; which is strange for the media-crazed New York market. He makes hard consistent contact with a decent approach at the plate. While he has hit only seven home runs to-date, the bat speed and approach suggest a ceiling of 20-25 home runs. The obvious two questions is will he stay at catcher and will he remain with the Yankees? Having seen him multiple times, I see him as a below average defender behind the dish. He’s a bat and he needs to be moved to first base or DH. Is he with the Yankees when this happens? I wouldn’t bet on it.
It’s been a disappointing year for the Cubs 2012 first round draft pick. However, the contact rate is there, he’s playing a stellar defensive outfield, and continues to have make-up off the charts. I’d compare him to Jackie Bradley Jr. except that Almora walks every other week. However, there is indeed lot of similarities – which I know is not good. He continues to hang onto his ranking but it’s definitely pointing downward.
I’ve always been a big fan of Jose Berrios, having ranked him at number 97 in our 2014 pre-season rankings. The 20-year-old pitcher has been impressive in the Florida State League. He has posted a 10.47 K/9 while only walking 2.44 per nine. The arsenal has also taken a step up as he has improved both his slider and change-up and is getting plenty of swings and misses with both. The big concern is his size. He’s 6-foot and 190 pounds and the fear is will he be able to log 200 innings per year. Time will tell, but so far, he’s doing just fine.
Tyler Kolek is 6-foot-5 and 245 pounds. His fastball can hit 100 plus MPH on the gun and yet, he’s 18-years-old. Honestly, how is that possible? But, it is! He’s very raw and currently doesn’t have a ton of pitchability. Even given the recent warnings that kids throwing above 85 miles per hour in their teen years put them at higher risk for elbow problems, Kolek could be a monster. While I ranked him 25-30 spots lower than Aiken and Rodon, that could look foolish in either direction by this time next year. In other words, he’s a huge high risk/high reward opportunity.