Francisco Lindor may soon be making him MLB debut. (Waitingfornextyear.com)
Finally, the 2014 RotoRob MLB Draft Kit officially wraps up today with the last batch of our Top 65 Prospects. So while you wonder whether Colby Lewis is justified in being pissed at Colby Rasmus, let’s examine the top 10 prospects in baseball.
Last year’s rankings are in parentheses.
10. Jameson Taillon, SP, Pittsburgh Pirates (13): Taillon has inched up a bit from last year when we slotted him 13th in our Top 60 Prospects rankings, and at the time we expressed some worry about his home run rates. Well, he addressed that issue at Double-A last year, earning a late-season promotion to Triple-A, where he was even stingier with the long ball. Unfortunately, Taillon’s progress was halted this year when his elbow began to hurt in Spring Training, ultimately leading to Tommy John surgery in April. He may not be ready to return until mid-2015, but depending on how well his recovery goes, he could be good to go pretty much at the beginning of next season (he’s expected to begin a throwing program very soon and we’ll know a lot more once that begins). In the video below, you can see him bringing the heat just prior to his injury. The Pirates’ first rounder from 2010 is still only 22, so we maintain our belief in him as a top 10 prospect despite this setback which derails any value he might have had this year. Now, we’ll have to wait until 2015 before this talented hurler is unleashed on the majors. This kid has the potential to average better than a strikeout per inning, and the valuable experience he accrued at Double-A last year should allow him to hit the ground running as soon as he’s healthy. Taillon hasn’t put together impressive won-loss records in the minors, but we’re not worried. A mid-season Eastern League All-Star last year, he really helped alleviate our worries about home run issues last year — and that was the one weakness he had. Every other part of the towering 6’6″ righty’s game should translate well into the bigs when he arrives.
9. Francisco Lindor, SS, Cleveland Indians (17): Back at the beginning of June, we suggested Lindor would make a decent stash if the Indians opted to move Asdrubal Cabrera at the trade deadline. Cleveland’s first rounder in 2011 out of Puerto Rico, Lindor has been highly touted for a reason, piling up the counting cats at Double-A — although he actually isn’t performing as well at this level as he did in the final month of 2013. Still, he’s been impressive enough to make the Eastern League All-Star team. Lindor’s combination of hitting ability, plate discipline and defense has him ticketed to the bigs, and the fact that his slugging is a tad better this year is even more promising. The switch-hitter murders lefties (.315) and his contact skills are exciting — although seem to be headed in the opposite direction this year. We don’t ever foresee Lindor being much of a power threat, but he’ll likely be able to contribute 10-to-15 jacks in his prime. Just 21, at this point his floor is pretty high and his ceiling is at the All-Star level.
8. Archie Bradley, SP, Arizona Diamondbacks (22): Back in a mid-February Podcast, we discussed Bradley’s chances of earning a job with Arizona this season. Even though Patrick Corbin’s injury opened the door, Arizona’s first rounder from 2011 wound up getting beat by Randall Delgado for the final rotation spot in Arizona, so he had to start the year at Triple-A. After just five starts, however, Bradley got hurt and the elbow injury slowed his progress and made it so he was unable to take advantage of an injury to Bronson Arroyo. Bradley has looked rusty since his return from the DL, but is starting to pitch better in Double-A, so we may yet see his debut this season. In fact, he’d make for a fine stash now, as there’s a good chance he could have a fairly big impact in the second half. Overall, this has been a tough season for Bradley, but we have to give him a mulligan for the first half and wipe the slate clean. We love his strikeout potential (9.54/9 for his minor league career), but his control needs to improve (4.76 BB/9).
7. Javier Baez, SS, Chicago Cubs (29): Baez sure put on a show in Spring Training, confirming his status as the Cubs’ top prospect and leaving long-suffering fans of the team drooling at the prospect of having him and Kris Bryant man the left side of the infield at Wrigley very soon. Taken ninth overall in 2011, Baez is in an interesting position now, as Starlin Castro is blocking him and the team just added Addison Russell — another top notch shortstop prospect. Apparently, the Cubs are stockpiling talent at short, and teams that need help (the Mets, trying to solve their revolving door at the position, and the Yankees, looking for Derek Jeter’s replacement) are already sniffing around. The 21-year-old Baez is struggling to hit for average at Triple-A, but he continues to pound the long ball. His batting eye is likely to leave something wanting when he arrives in the Show, but defensively he should be an average big league shortstop — one capable of stealing plenty of bases. Whether Baez will remain with the Cubs is a legitimate question, but his power-speed skills will play anywhere. Yes, we worry about the contact skills and lack of patience, but even if he winds up at second or third, his dingers and steals will compensate if the average is not up to snuff.
6. Carlos Correa, SS, Houston Astros (30): The first of three straight first overall picks for the Astros, Correa’s 2014 ended abruptly last month thanks to a busted leg that required surgery. Houston’s top prospect — who will still be a teenager until September — was the topic of a trade rumour last fall, according to the leaked Houston trade discussions. The Marlins asked for him and George Springer in return for Giancarlo Stanton — a deal the Astros declined. Correa’s injury definitely sets back his development, but we’re still talking about someone that took on full-season ball at the age of 18 and excelled — something that speaks volumes about his potential. More promising, while Correa had started to flash base stealing skills last year, he really took off in that regard this season before getting hurt. Many believe Houston should have taken Byron Buxton instead of Correa with the top pick in 2012, but that’s an argument that will take many years to play out. Assuming Correa can bounce back from his injury, having a slick fielding, power-average hitting speedster at a premium position will be a pretty damn huge asset for the Astros in time. He was hitting .325 at High-A before getting hurt, justifying his choice as the first Puerto Rican player to ever go first overall in the draft. Correa may not dominate any one skill, but he doesn’t have any glaring weaknesses in his game, either. We’d say power (.465 career slugging) is his most intriguing asset as a shortstop, and if there was one area we’d like to see some improvement in it would be in patience (10.4 per cent career walk rate). Correa may have been a surprise pick at No. 1 in 2012, but he’s done nothing yet but vindicate the choice.
5. Taijuan Walker, SP, Seattle Mariners (4): In late-June, we talked about Walker’s long-awaited return to the Mariner rotation after injury rehab. Backed by a Mariner season-high four jacks, he won his 2014 debut, bouncing back nicely after a rough first couple of innings. There’s no doubt Walker needs to tighten his command to achieve his potential, but we’ll cut him some slack as he’s been working his way back from shoulder woes. The righty is being counted on to bring some consistency and stability to the back end of the Seattle rotation, which has really struggled at times this year, although, surprisingly, his name is coming up in some trade rumours as the Mariners eye David Price. Walker has tremendous strikeout potential (9.74/9 as a minor leaguer) with his mid-90s heater, changeup and curveball mix. Seattle’s top prospect earned PCL Pitcher of the Week honours just before being brought back to the Show. The key for Walker will be his control — which was actually much better during his rehab work this season than it was at Triple-A last year (4.24 BB/9). A supplemental first rounder in 2010, he stands a commanding 6’5″ and will likely one day take over from Felix Hernandez as the Mariners’ ace if he isn’t deal before hand, that is.
4. Oscar Taveras, OF, St. Louis Cardinals (6): Finally brought up by the Cardinals a few weeks ago, Taveras struggled to get on base and was sent back to Triple-A after a couple of weeks. He’s back ip now for another chance to stick, but the Cards have so many moving parts that they can afford to be patient with this young slugger. In fact, there’s even talk he could be moved if St. Louis makes a play for Price. From a Fantasy perspective, don’t you dare remove Taveras from your roster — he’s going to have a big impact before the season is up. He’s been the top prospect in the Cardinal organization for quite some time for a reason. Even if he struggling to get hits in his first 24 big league games, we love his batting average potential (.329 in five minor league seasons), but he’s never going to be a dude that draws a ton of walks. St. Louis is going to be careful about having Taveras bounce back and forth between Triple-A, so expect this chance to be longer.
3. Miguel Sano, 3B, Minnesota Twins (20): When we slotted Sano 20th in last year’s Top 60 Prospects, we said we wanted to see how he’d adjust to higher levels before really going ga ga over him. Unfortunately, injuries have slowed the ascension of this powerful Dominican, who turned 21 a couple of months ago. Twins fans have been anxiously awaiting Sano’s arrival for some time, but they’ll have to be a bit more patient in the wake of his Tommy John procedure in March. He’s scheduled for a checkup soon, and if all goes well, Sano could do some DHing in August before the minor league season wraps up. When this kid finally reaches the majors, he’ll be prone to whiff plenty, but his prodigious power will make it all worthwhile. Let’s recap what Sano did last year that prompted us to move him into the top five. He began the season at High-A, putting up a monstrous .325 ISO with a .330 BA to earn a mid-season promotion to Double-A, where he continued to score plenty of runs and — especially — drive them in. Combined, he hit .280 with 35 homers and a .610 slugging percentage en route to being named an MiLB Organizational All-Star. Sano will one day be a 40-homer man in the majors. There, we said it. Now you understand why we have him ranked so high. There is no more elite power in all of the minors currently, but yes, there’s no doubt Sano will have issues making contact. Giancarlo Stanton’s reputation as having the most power in the majors will be put to the test once Sano arrives.
2. Xander Bogaerts, SS, Boston Red Sox (15): After a hot start to the season, Bogaerts stock dropped in May. He’s also shifted to the hot corner to make room for the re-signed Stephen Drew at shortstop and that may have screwed with his head a bit. Bogaerts has really scuffled since early May, and he’s striking out more than we’d like and not getting on base as often as we’d like. Still, we believe Bogaerts has 20-homer potential and he’s a solid baserunner as well even though he’s unlikely to offer more than a sprinkling of steals. What we love most about this kid is how after just a handful of big league games, he stepped into a regular role last year for a World Series winning team and didn’t look overmatched in the least. That’s one of those situations in which you need to heed what you see and forget about sabremetrics for a moment. In the end, it is Bogaerts’ power that most intrigues Fantasy owners, and obviously if this athletic infielder winds up at short, that power will be even more valuable.
1. Byron Buxton, OF, Minnesota Twins (34): Buxton, who we got a look at in the AFL last year, has become the consensus top prospect in the game. Currently at High-A, he’s dealt with ongoing wrist issues this year that have hampered his growth. That doesn’t make us sour on 2012’s second overall pick in the least. Buxton, who won’t be 21 until December, has only played 13 games so far this season, but even so, it would not surprise us to see him in the majors next year. Given a monster week, his wrist is getting better and it won’t be long until the Mike Trout comparisons can begin anew. Buxton will be an on-base machine in time, and his ability to fill up both the extra-base and steal cats makes him a rare talent. Last year, his 18 triples were more than anyone in full-season ball. Overall, we love Buxton’s speed (66 steals in first two pro seasons), but would like to see better contact (career strikeout rate of nearly 20 per cent). There is no prospect in the game with better tools or more potential than Buxton.
Now it’s your turn. Let us know in the comments below which are your favourite prospects.
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