2013 RotoRob MLB Draft Kit: Top 60 Prospects, Part I
Aaron Hicks (centre) could play a huge role for the Twinkies this season.
The 2013 RotoRob MLB Draft Kit surges forward today as we switch gears and launch into our annual look at the top prospects in the game.
In this, our ninth annual list, we’ve again beefed things up this – going 60 deep for the first time. As we’ve done the past couple of years, we’re breaking this file up to make it easier to digest – and to build drama!
So while you wonder whether Derek Jeter will recover from his tough offseason, let’s review prospects 60 through 51.
This season, we’re up to a whopping 34 returnees from our 2012 rankings (nearly double from last year’s 18 returnees), while just 16 from last year’s Top 55 prospects graduated from the bigs (down from 20 grads last year). The number of prospects that fell off the list this year plummeted to just five – meaning we were much more accurate in our projections in 2012. The upshot is just 26 newcomers – all the more surprising given that we have expanded from 55 to 60 prospects this season.
Graduating from last year’s top 55 list: Bryce Harper (1), Matt Moore (2), Mike Trout (3), Manny Machado (7), Jesus Montero (8), Devin Mesoraco (12), Jacob Turner (14), Drew Pomeranz (20), Jarrod Parker (29), Randall Delgado (30), Matt Harvey (32), Anthony Gose (41), Anthony Rizzo (42), Yonder Alonso (48), Yasmani Grandal (50) and Yu Darvish (55).
Dropping off the list this season: Manny Banuelos (17), Arodys Vizcaino (34), Mike Montgomery (36), Dellin Betances (53) and Trevor May (54).
Now go get yourself a huge ass coffee and then sit down to enjoy Part I of our tome of prospects.
Last year’s rankings are in parentheses.
60. Aaron Hicks, OF, Minnesota Twins (NR): Just last month, we identified Hicks as a deep sleeper for 2013 because he’s a prime candidate to emerge with the Twins’ centrefielder/leadoff job, and that makes him one of the most intriguing prospects for redraft leagues. When both Denard Span and Ben Revere were dealt this offseason, the door opened for Hicks, who scored 100 runs in 129 games at Double-A last year. The Twins have done a great job of developing outfielders over the years, and Hicks is poised to continue that tradition. He’s athletic, but his less than inspired performance in the Venezuela Winter League suggests that some seasoning at Triple-A might be in order. Still, Hicks’ huge 2012 campaign has definitely helped shoot him up this list after entering last season as barely a top 75 prospect. The 23-year-old, taken 14th overall in 2008, is an extremely patient hitter, but he’ll need to improve his contact skills if he’s going to stick as a top of the order threat. We love the step forward this switchhitter took at the plate last year as his developing power put him on the map as a legitimate five-tool prospect. Hicks’ walk rates have always been top notch, but last year he showed tremendous progress in his basestealing success rate.
59. Albert Almora, OF, Chicago Cubs (NR): In a July Podcast, we gave you an idea of what you could expect from Almora after the Cubs took him sixth overall last year. Chicago is in heavy duty rebuilding mode, and Almora is a big part of that process. After his first professional season, he’s already near the top of the Cubs’ prospect chart and the 18-year-old Florida high school product can really pick it in the outfield and he projects as a top basestealer. One of the top 10 outfield prospects in the game, Almora has been lauded for his instincts and he flashed gap power in a limited look in the rookie Arizona League before getting some experience in low-A, where his offensive numbers predictably dipped. In his final season in high school, Almora flashed sweet extra-base pop and fantastic speed. He’s an incredible contact hitter, which is a damn good thing because patience isn’t really his thang. For a high school player, Almora is polished, so he’ll likely move through the Cubs’ system fairly quickly. Expect him to arrive in Wrigley by the end of the 2015 season, perhaps earlier. We’ll have a clearer idea of how rapidly he’ll advance once he reaches full-season ball.
58. James Paxton, SP, Seattle Mariners (43): We liked what we saw of Paxton in the AFL last year, and as part of the big three in Seattle (with Danny Hultzen and Taijuan Walker), he affords the Mariners an opportunity to deal ace Felix Hernandez if they so desire. Paxton is impressing the Seattle brass in camp because of his delivery repeatability, thereby increasing his chances of breaking camp with a job. A top five prospect in a system that is loaded with star potential, Paxton has a high upside, but he’ll need to improve his control. He suffered from low strand rates in the AFL, but that wasn’t as big of an issue at Double-A, leading to better results. Canada sure could use Paxton in the WBC, but the fact that Seattle said ‘no way’ suggests that he really does have a shot to break camp with a big league job. The 24-year-old southpaw was the Mariners’ fourth round pick in 2010 and he’s done a great job of limiting long balls since turning pro. Paxton has decent strikeout potential, but as discussed, he’ll only go as far as his control will allow him to. If the walks are reduced (similar to what he did in his first taste of Double-A in 2011), he’ll have a real chance to be part of the best rotation in baseball (assuming all the Mariners’ pitching prospects pan out). Otherwise, his future could be in the bullpen — that WHIP of 1.411 last year was a bit of a red flag.
57. Alen Hanson, SS, Pittsburgh Pirates (NR): After a ho-hum pro debut in 2011, Hanson stormed onto the Fantasy radar last year, establishing himself as the shortstop of the future in the Steel City virtually out of nowhere. In his first year of full-season ball, Hanson showed tremendous speed at Class-A and his emergence has helped improve the overall state of the Pirate system. Some consider Hanson an even better prospect than we do, but we’re waiting to see if he can consolidate his gains at High-A and — more importantly — once he reaches Double-A. The Dominican switch-hitter is just 20, but he displayed improved patience, which will really stead him well as he moves up the ladder. In 2011, Hanson led the GCL in triples, but last year, he started flashing home run power as well, which — when combined with his BA and speed — makes him a very exciting prospect to track. He’ll need to cut down on his strikeouts, but his overall package of skills is really strong across the board. The slap-hitting Hanson has amazing stolen base potential, but given that he was caught 19 times in 54 tries last year, he needs work. Still, the overall improvement has caught our eye and as a result, he’s forced his way onto our list this year.
56. Tony Cingrani, SP, Cincinnati Reds (NR): After his promotion in early-September, Cingrani earned a Wire Troll recommendation from us. One of the more important September callups last year, he looked superb in a long relief role, fanning nine in just five innings with a sweet WHIP and superb ERA. Cingrani is expected to start the season in the Triple-A rotation, so he’s just an injury away from a key role in the majors. The 23-year-old southpaw has a pretty nice heater (for a lefty, anyways) which he can spot in the 89 to 94 mph range. Some believe he has earned a right to compete for a rotation spot this spring, but Cincy is playing it smart by giving him some time at Triple-A considering he has yet to pitch at that level. A native of Illinois, Cingrani was a third rounder in 2011. Last year, he dominated at High-A, earning a promotion to Double-A after just 10 starts. He continued to show he could win at the higher level and wound up reaching double-digit wins combined with a fantastic ERA and off the charts K rate. Limiting baserunners is Cingrani’s specialty and if he has a weakness (which he really doesn’t) it would be his control. He walked a few too many at Double-A, but that wasn’t a problem earlier in his career, so we expect him to adjust. The strange thing is that Cingrani wasn’t really a good a starter at Rice; he didn’t become a nice draft prospect until he was converted into a closer. But he’s excelled as a starter in the pros, and will get plenty of chances at a rotation spot before Cincy decides his future would be better in the bullpen.
55. Dan Straily, SP, Oakland A’s (NR): Straily is another hurler that got a Wire Troll recommendation from us (in early August), and while he certainly looked good when first recalled and was even harder to hit in September, walks and long balls made life tougher on him. Straily will battle A.J. Griffin for the fifth starter job in a very young A’s rotation, but he may have to begin the season at Triple-A and wait for his chance. Last year, Straily looked like a workhorse at Double-A and was virtually unhittable after a promotion to Triple-A. He then held his own in the majors, although his command wasn’t as dominant. Straily paced the minors in strikeouts last year, but was unable to duplicate that in the majors, and that will be something to keep an eye on this year. The other big thing was his unsustainable BABIP in the majors — clearly, Straily was extremely fortunate to record a sub-4.00 ERA. His peripherals will need to improve to support that kind of mark. Having said that, consider Straily a sleeper this year, capable of reaching double digits in wins if he earns enough rotation time. He was part of a rotation that went 20-5 after August 16, so he can definitely contribute if he gets the chance. Either way, Straily has quickly emerged as a steal for the A’s, who grabbed him in the 24th round in 2009 out of Marshall, a school which has had very little success developing major leaguers over the years. His overall hit rates last year in the minors were off the charts and we still love his strikeout potential. Straily looks like he has solid tools across the board, but no one dominant trait. We see him topping out as a solid No. 3 or low end No. 2 starter, although we’d have to lean towards the latter after witnessing the WHIP he enjoyed at Triple-A.
54. Aaron Sanchez, SP, Toronto Blue Jays (NR): Despite being a supplemental first round pick in 2010, Sanchez was not really on the Fantasy radar until last year. However, regardless of his breakout campaign, Sanchez won’t be rushed — especially given how much pitching the Jays acquired this offseason. Still, he’s far enough away from the majors that much can change before Sanchez is ready to force his way to the Show. After all, he just proved he can be a winner in full-season ball… there are still plenty of obstacles ahead. Sanchez got some much needed seasoning, earning a Midwest Pitcher of the Week Award along the way. Sanchez has nice strikeout potential, but unless he improves his control, he could get carved up at higher levels. If he does rein those walks in, Sanchez could wind up as a No. 2 starter down the road, and will likely be in line to reach Toronto by 2015 if he stays on track.
53. Casey Kelly, SP, San Diego Padres (NR): Kelly’s fantastic big league debut drew our attention in a late-August Podcast and why not? All he did is toss six shutout innings of three-hit ball for the win. Unfortunately, it was pretty much all downhill from there. He’ll compete for the fifth starter job this season, but last year was a tough one for Kelly as a seemingly minor elbow injury wound up costing him three months. His results in San Diego left something to be desired as his normal stellar control went AWOL. Yet another injury saw San Diego shut Kelly down late in the season. He’s not a lock for a rotation spot by any stretch, but this former shortstop is likely to play a role at some point this year. In order for Kelly to have success in the majors, he’ll need to duplicate his home run rates from the minors. He remains one of the top prospects in the Padre system and is now fully healthy and ready to compete — but he faces an uphill battle. Some considered him a top 50 prospect prior to 2012, however, we weren’t as bullish; well, we’ve nearly bought in now, but Kelly will need to stay healthy like when he was an All-Star in 2011 in the Texas League for him to have a chance. Taken 30th overall in 2008 by Boston, Kelly was dealt to San Diego in the Adrian Gonzalez deal, and while his overall package of tools lacks a dominant skill, if he can limit baserunners, he’ll be successful. Kelly won’t ever blow hitters away, but he’s got enough going for him to be a very fine No. 3 starter in time.
52. Noah Syndergaard, SP, New York Mets (NR): Syndergaard is another pitcher that jumped onto the Fantasy landscape in his first year of full-season ball. Traded to the Mets from the Jays in the R.A. Dickey deal this winter, Syndergaard immediately soared near the top of the prospect list in New York. Yes, trading Cy Young winner Dickey really helped revitalize a Met farm system that was already showing improvements courtesy of some international signings. A sandwich pick in 2010 out of Mansfield Legacy (a Texas high school), Syndergaard has a serious heater capable of reaching 100 mph. In his first full season in the Midwest League last year, he enjoyed a nice record with a sweet ERA that was not polished by an unsustainable BABIP. After three years developing into one of the top Jays prospects, Syndergaard has now been thrust into a much better situation of not only shifting to the NL, but to the Mets, who play in one of the game’s better pitcher parks. He’s expected to begin this season at either Double-A or (more likely) High-A after his fine 2.60 ERA at Class-A — good enough to earn him an All-Star nod. This righty has off the charts skills, with control being the only area he really needs to improve. Just 20 years old, Syndergaard is a big boy at 6’5″ and if he can stay healthy, he’s poised to have a fine big league career, likely beginning in about two years.
51. Jorge Soler, OF, Chicago Cubs (NR): When the Cubs signed this young Cuban last year to a nine-year, $30-million deal, he was immediately thrust into the Fantasy consciousness. Soler will combine with Almora to give the Cubs a fine outfield when the team starts to turn things around in a few years. One of the team’s top prospects, Soler will be 21 next week and after a productive stint at Rookie level, he was quickly moved to Class-A, where he was even more productive. Now he’s in his first big league camp and has already impressed Manager Dale Svuem with how the ball comes off his bat. Soler can hit and it won’t be surprising to see this kid move through the Cubs’ system quickly. The 6’3″, 205-pounder has got his feet wet in organized ball now, so it will be very fascinating to see how he handles his first full season. Soler already filled out quite a bit in the past year, and that is likely going to manifest itself in his power game very soon.
Prospects 50 through 41 are coming shortly.
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