Top 70 Prospects, Part II
It won’t be long until Maikel Franco will accelerate the Phillies’ rebuilding program. (Bleedphilly.com)
Today, we wrap up our Top 70 Prospects list with Part II, focusing on the top 30 prospects in the game. So while David Ortiz and Jim Palmer wage war on social media, let’s look at some future stars!
For Prospects 70 through 31, click here.
30. Maikel Franco, Philadelphia Phillies, 3B (46): One our pre-season deep sleepers, Franco gets a nice bump up the list after moving up to Triple-A and then making his MLB debut last season. The Phillies No. 2 prospect (we know, that’s not saying much) actually improved his walk rate at Triple-A… from non-existent to pathetic. Franco then struggled to get on base in the majors. Still, he’s just two years removed from that ridiculously amazing season he enjoyed in 2013, so we’re cutting this kid some slack. Once he starts forcing pitchers to throw strikes more often, look out. Check out Franco’s power stroke in the video below.
29. Austin Meadows, Pittsburgh Pirates, OF (56): Unfortunately, a hamstring injury delayed the start of Meadows’ 2014 season, but that didn’t stop him from showing what he’s capable of at full-season ball, hence his major boost from last year. He was very productive during his time in the Sally League, although we’d like to see him make better contact because that could be an issue as he moves up and faces better competition. Meadows also hit way more groundballs than usual last year, and we’re hoping that trend reverses itself so he can take advantage of his power potential. He’s begin the season at High-A in a very productive manner and, really, all he needs at this point is a stretch of good health so he can develop into his immense potential.
28. Henry Owens, Boston Red Sox, LHP (51): Owens was Boston’s No. 4 prospect a year ago at this time, but he’s moved up to No. 2 after whipping through Double-A and reaching Triple-A last season. He recorded a stellar 2.60 ERA in 20 starts at Double-A before limiting opponents to a .230 BAA through a half dozen starts at Triple-A. All told, Owens went 17-5 last year with 170 Ks in 159 IP. Some consider him a top 20 prospect, and while we’re not quite as high on him, we don’t have him far off that mark. The 6’6″ righty has a hell of a changeup, but is not yet on Boston’s 40-man roster, so if the Sox need him, someone will have to be DFAed or put on the 60-day DL.
27. Kyle Schwarber, Chicago Cubs, C/OF (NR): The fourth overall pick last year out of Indiana University is on the fast track. After just five games and 20 at-bats (during which he drove in 10 runs) at Low-A, Schwarber was promoted to full season Class-A ball. He continued to rake there, delivering 30 hits and driving in 15 runs in just 23 games. The Cubs moved him to High-A for the final 44 games of the season, and all Schwarber did was score 31 runs while pounding 10 homers, nine doubles and a triple. He made a mockery of the low minors in his pro debut, recording a 1061 OPS in 72 games. The Cubs continue to aggressive with Schwarber, starting him at Double-A in 2015 and if his trajectory continues, he’ll be at Wrigley before you know it. We know he’ll hit wherever the hell he is. The only real question is what position will he play in the majors?
26. Jose Berrios, Minnesota Twins, RHP (NR): Berrios is part of a star-studded Double-A team for the Twins, packed with several players that could find themselves in the bigs by the end of 2015. His fastball will be his best offering, followed by his curve and then his slider and changeup. Berrios was a sandwich pick in 2012 out of a Puerto Rico high school. He’s a small-ish righty, but makes up for that with athleticism; Javier Vazquez is a good comparison. Last year, Berrios pitched at three levels, showing fantastic control at High-A before seeing a significant drop in his strikeout level at Double-A. He made one start at Triple-A, but took a bit of a beating. We expect Berrios to be ready to compete for a rotation spot in earnest by 2016.
25. Mark Appel, Houston Astros, RHP (25): Appel’s go-to pitch is his four-seam fastball, which can reach 95 mph. He complements that with a slider, splitter and sinker. Appel needs to improve his command and work on maintaining his velocity through the game. Last year, he was cuffed around at High-A and saw his control regress at Double-A. The good news is Appel performed admirably at the AFL. It looks like he needs a bit more seasoning, and with the Astros developing a decent rotation, he won’t be rushed.
24. Jon Gray, Colorado Rockies, RHP (15): Gray slipped a bit in our rankings this year after some long ball issues at Double-A. Still, we like his across the board skills — especially his ability to limit baserunners (career 1.14 WHIP). Gray’s a bull of a man capable of logging major innings and being a big winner. We just hope the Rox give him enough time to develop into a force.
23. Daniel Norris, Toronto Blue Jays, LHP (NR): The dude that lived in a van down by the river won his MLB debut this season, a season after crashing the prospect map by going 12-2 while posting the highest strikeout rate in the entire minors. The southpaw won a rotation spot out of Spring Training (helped by Marcus Stroman’s injury) and has looked extremely poised despite his relative lack of experience.
22. David Dahl, Colorado Rockies, OF (NR): The top prospect in the Rockies’ system has started the season at Double-A. Colorado’s first round pick in 2012 finally stayed healthy enough last year to show what he can do, and he soared up the prospect charts as a result. Dahl flashed power and nice basestealing ability at Class-A, earning a promotion to Double-A, where his less than buoyant walk rate dipped. Now that injuries — and disciplinary issues — are behind him, Dahl looks like a star in the making.
21. Alex Jackson, Seattle Mariners, OF/C (NR): Seattle’s first rounder last year is a big man, but it’s clear he won’t be sticking at catcher. Still, from a Fantasy perspective, while this hurts his overall value, it will help expedite his journey to the majors. Already a top 25 prospect, Jackson has the tools to move into the top 10 by this time next year. He hit .280 in the Arizona Rookie League last year, and in moving to Class-A now, we’re expecting him to do some very big things this season.
20. Archie Bradley, Arizona Diamondbacks, RHP (8): We had been waiting for Bradley to make his MLB debut for a while. So long, in fact, that the delay is partially responsible for him sliding in the rankings this year. An injury-shortened season during which he mostly struggled in 2014 didn’t help matters. Well, Bradley finally made his debut… opposing Clayton Kershaw. Welcome to the bigs, kid! Bradley had such a strong spring that Arizona dealt Trevor Cahill to open up a spot for him. So far, Bradley has been living up to the hype that’s been building for a couple of years now.
19. Robert Stephenson, Cincinnati Reds, RHP (21): Stephenson has tremendous strikeout potential (9.9 K/9 in his career), but has been prone to gopher balls (almost one per nine innings). Despite some less than pretty bottom line results at Double-A last year, we felt he deserved to inch up the rankings based on striking out 140 batters in 136 2/3 IP — at the age of 21. Stephenson is starting out at Double-A again this year, but as his command continues to improve, he’ll be ready for the next step.
18. Blake Swihart, Boston Red Sox, C (NR): We like Swihart enough that we slotted him in the top 45 of our Catcher Rankings this season. Small wonder, as Boston’s 2011 first rounder enjoyed a highly productive season at Double-A last year, earning a promotion to Triple-A, where he struggled a bit more to make contact. Swihart has a chance to be a potent offensive catcher.
17. Tyler Glasnow, Pittsburgh Pirates, RHP (NR): Glasnow flashed some great stuff at the AFL, helping consolidate a monster season in which the 2011 fifth rounder dominated at High-A and soared up the prospect charts. He sported a tremendous record and despite a slight rise in WHIP, managed to lower his ERA almost half a run from his Class-A result. It looks like Glasnow will continue to rise, given his sparkling Double-A debut this season (five shutout innings). The Pirates may have found a real gem here.
16. Dylan Bundy, Baltimore Orioles, RHP (11): Bundy is still waiting to get back to the majors for the first time since 2012, so we had to lower him in the rankings — but only slightly, as we are still extremely bullish about his future. Last year, he dominated in a few rehab starts at Low-A before moving to High-A, where his strikeout rate dipped significantly. It’s clear Bundy is still shaking off the post Tommy John surgery rust, and he’s back at Double-A to begin this season. The fact that he looked superb in his first outing tells us he just needs some solid innings under his belt now before being ready for a legitimate crack at The Show.
15. Jorge Soler, Chicago Cubs, OF (23): Recently, Soler exploded for his first two homers of the season for the Cubs. Get used to it, people. He smacked five of them in 24 games last year, driving in 20 runs in his first taste of the bigs. Yup, Soler’s for real, and the future is now with this kid.
14. Carlos Rodon, Chicago White Sox, LHP (NR): The third overall pick last year already looks major league ready, and it was probably a financial decision to not start his service clock that was the main reason Rodon didn’t break camp with the Pale Hose this spring. His slider is his best offering, followed by his fastball and changeup. At this point, Rodon will pitch in the minors and wait for one of Chicago’s starters to get hurt or blow up so he can get his crack. Even with so little pro experience, he seems pretty much ready to battle MLB hitters, but the fact that he’ll get some seasoning won’t hurt. Rodon’s upside is off the charts — especially now that the Sox have fixed whatever velocity problems he was dealing with last year.
13. J.P. Crawford, Philadelphia Phillies, SS (NR): The lean and athletic Crawford broke through last season, blazing up the prospect charts and making it clear he was the Phillies’ shortstop of the future. There’s no doubt Philly had less angst about dealing Jimmy Rollins after Crawford’s huge 2014. Crawford’s work at short is impeccable, so there’s no fear of him being shifted to another position, but his power potential is capped. He’ll be a solid enough offensive player to bat near the top of the order and his speed will be a strong asset for Fantasy owners. Crawford should team with Franco to man the left side of the Phillies’ infield for years.
12. Julio Urias, Los Angeles Dodgers, LHP (NR): A season after moving up to High-A and pitching even better, Urias has gate crashed the prospect charts in a big way. He’s a strikeout machine (over 11/9 for his career), but has some control issues (3.8 BB/9 last season). Urias has been moved up to Double-A this year and, judging by his first start (five shutout innings, two hits allowed), he’s more than ready for this latest challenge. The Dodgers have some very injury prone options at the end of their existing rotation, so it’s conceivable to imagine a scenario where Urias finds his way to the bigs this season — especially if he keeps dominating his current level.
11. Joc Pederson, Los Angeles Dodgers, OF (33): The athletically built Pederson took another big jump up our rankings after recording a .435 OBP in 535 at-bats at Triple-A last year. All he did was score 106 runs and enjoy a rare 30-30 season in the minors. This year, he’s taking all that natural baseball ability to the majors, and so far this CarGo Light is continuing to impress, batting .310 through his first nine games and 29 at-bats, with one homer, one steal, six runs and four ribbies.
10. Francisco Lindor, Cleveland Indians, SS (9): Lindor got closer to the bigs last year, but his offense did not develop, hence he dropped ever so slightly in our rankings this year. He didn’t hit at well at Double-A and his overall performance at the plate slipped again once promoted to Triple-A. Early on this year, Lindor’s walk rate is up at Triple-A, but that’s the only good news. This kid has a very bright future, but a full year at Columbus would help his offensive development.
9. Miguel Sano, Minnesota Twins, 3B (3): Injury issues have caused Sano to slip a bit in our rankings this year, but it wouldn’t shock us at all to see him not only get to the bigs this year, but make an impact — mostly from a power perspective. After missing all of 2014, he’s back at Double-A to start this season, and early on, the rust is showing. But we’re confident that within a few weeks, Sano will be opening eyes with his home run prowess.
8. Joey Gallo, Texas Rangers, 3B (NR): Gallo is the highest rated player on our list that did not appear in last year’s Top 65 Prospect Rankings. But the Rangers’ supplemental first rounder (39th overall) from 2012 certainly deserved to soar up the charts after combining for 42 homers in 126 games last year at High-A and Double-A. Gallo was highly productive at High-A and even showed some modest speed, and while his power wasn’t quite as impressive at Double-A, he still had 31 extra-base hits in 68 games. A heel injury has delayed the start of his 2015 campaign, but once Gallo returns and proves he can handle Double-A, he’ll move quick.
7. Noah Syndergaard, New York Mets, RHP (12): After moving up to Triple-A and pitching better than his bottom line results would suggest, Syndergaard jumps into the top 10 this year. This kid has a dynamite fastball, and while some forearm stiffness this spring is worrisome, he’s active at Triple-A currently (albeit, on a pitch count). The Mets are starting to put a spectacular young rotation together and Syndergaard has a chance to one day soon be one of the best of the bunch. Yes, he’s got top of the rotation stuff.
6. Lucas Giolito, Washington Nationals, RHP (32): Giolito is another returnee that soared up the list this year after moving up to Low-A and reaching double-digit wins with 110 strikeouts in 98 innings. He’s a huge kid (6’6″, 255) that should be able to log major innings in time. Giolito pitches comfortably at 94 mph, and is capable of reaching back for more when necessary. Already blessed with an embarrassment of pitching riches, Washington has another potential ace on its hands here.
5. Corey Seager, Los Angeles Dodgers, SS (42): Seager is another prospect that made great headway in 2014, hitting extraordinarily well at High-A before moving up to Double-A, where his walk rate dipped. We have some concerns about his batting eye and also wonder if his size (6’4″, 215) will play at shortstop, but all indications suggest the Dodgers will keep him there until his play forces them to switch his position (presumably to third base). So far, that point has not come. Seager has a great makeup and his power potential is his most coveted skill. Obviously, his Fantasy value will not be as immense as a third baseman, but the bat will play either way.
4. Addison Russell, Chicago Cubs, SS (16): A key component of one of the richest farm systems baseball has seen in years, Russell has nice power potential and good speed, but there are questions about whether he’ll remain at shortstop. A torn hamstring slowed him last year, yet he still put up huge performances at Double-A in both the A’s and — after getting moved in the Jeff Samardzija deal — the Cubs systems. Russell’s 12 homers in 50 games after the trade really stuck out as impressive. Now, he’s the latest Cub uber prospect to be recalled to the bigs.
3. Carlos Correa, Houston Astros, SS (6): Correa is yet another shortstop prospect that keeps rising in our rankings. It’s clear at this stage that there’s no better prospect at the position in baseball. Yes, injuries cut a big hole in Correa’s 2014 season, but he moved up to High-A and scored 50 runs in 62 games while improving his contact rate. Broken leg? Whatever! Correa swiped a career best 20 bases while batting .325 with a .510 slugging percentage. He’s moved up to Double-A this year and has taken his game to a whole new level already. Small wonder we’re this bullish on Correa.
2. Kris Bryant, Chicago Cubs, 3B (19): The Kris Bryant era has finally begun in Chicago, and so far the Cubs are thrilled, and why not? Power, thy name be Bryant. This kid has a chance to become the game’s top power hitter in no time at all. Last year, he belted 43 homers between Double-A and Triple-A, and while there may be concerns about his contact skills, he’s as major league ready as they come, so we don’t expect him to ever see the minors again (unless it’s for a rehab assignment). The fact that Bryant has already shown the ability to make quick adjustments speaks to how mature a hitter he is.
1. Byron Buxton, Minnesota Twins, OF (1): Our No. 1 prospect for the second straight season is still waiting to make his MLB debut, but if not for a wave of injuries, it surely would have already occurred. The Twins are a team on the rise, and this kid’s ability to bounce back from an injury-marred 2014 and reach the bigs is the key to how quick they will become a contender. The rust is showing at Double-A early on, but Buxton is a major talent, and it’s only a matter of time before he returns to his 2013 form.
Now it’s your turn. Let us know in the comments below which prospects will you be paying attention to this season.
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