Danny Hultzen’s eyebrows are MLB-ready.
The time has come. We’ve churned out the first 50 prospects in our 2013 Top Prospects tome, and now it’s time to unveil the cream of the crop. So while you Zack Greinke owners continue to wonder how you’ll salvage your season, let’s check out prospects 10 through 1.
Last year’s rankings are in parentheses.
10. Danny Hultzen, SP, Seattle Mariners (19): Part of the Big Three in Seattle, Hultzen dealt with a hip woe this spring and was farmed out, but he really didn’t have much of a chance to win a job anyway. Last year was the tale of two halves for the No. 2 overall pick in 2011. He was lights out in Double-A before getting touched up quite a bit at Triple-A. This 23-year-old southpaw was seriously wild at Triple-A, but that hadn’t been an issue before and he seems to have addressed it in the early going at Triple-A this year. The Tacoma Opening Night starter was reportedly brilliant in his season debut, getting ahead of hitters all game as he worked six innings of three-hit, one-run ball with eight Ks and just two walks. All told last year, Hultzen recorded a 3.05 ERA and so far this year, it’s even lower at 2.70 as he proves he’s ready for the bigs whenever the team needs him (at this point, he’s next in line for a promotion). His forte is limiting baserunners and there’s really no skill in his arsenal that needs addressing. Is Hultzen the next Cliff Lee? We may find out what the kid is made of very soon once he arrives in Em City.
9. Travis d’Arnaud, C, New York Mets (23): We like d’Arnaud enough to slot him in the top 45 of our Catcher Rankings this season. Acquired by the Mets as the key component in the R.A. Dickey trade, d’Arnaud was sent down to Triple-A to start the season, as expected. John Buck is off to a hot start to hold the kid off, but d’Arnaud was expected to be coming to the Mets sooner rather than later (unless, of course, he’s traded for Giancarlo Stanton). Unfortunately, a broken foot may slow d’Arnaud’s arrival. Last year — his first season at Triple-A — his counting cats dipped because of injuries, but his on-base skills were off the chart. He was off to a slow start (.250 BA) so far this season and while his numbers are down slightly, we still love his power potential. Like most catchers, speed is not d’Arnaud’s thang, but his overall game is really impressive. Impressive enough to make Mets’ fan forget about their Cy Young winner? Time will tell.
8. Tyler Skaggs, SP, Arizona Diamondbacks (13): Skaggs has been lurking in the background of the D-Backs rotation for some time, waiting for his opportunity. Just 21, time remains on the side of this tall lefty, dealt from the Angels to Arizona as part of the Dan Haren trade in 2010. Skaggs remains one of the top candidates to earn the call to Arizona should injury or ineffective necessitate it, and his season debut (six goose egg innings) at Triple-A tells us he’s ready for that opportunity when it comes. He made a half-dozen starts for the D-Backs last season, but was touched up a bit. Skaggs could use just a bit of seasoning before he comes back, but this time, we don’t expect him to leave. He proved he can win at Double-A and his FIP was even better at Triple-A (although at both levels, he was a tad lucky to record such low ERAs). Skaggs trended away from his groundball ways into more of a neutral pitcher, and we’re going to keep an eye on that this year, because that could definitely affect his homer rate. We love his strikeout potential, but as we alluded to, it’s the long balls we somewhat worry about. Armed with an excellent fastball and curve plus a decent changeup, Skaggs just needs an opportunity to prove that he’s a future MLB All-Star calibre starter.
7. Zack Wheeler, SP, New York Mets (31): Wheeler’s spring got off to a rough start thanks to injuries but he did look good in his only appearance of the Grapefruit League (showing top notch stuff in two shutout innings). The Mets have tons of pitching injuries and are dealing with some rotations struggles, so they may have to strongly consider recalling Wheeler from Triple-A very soon. A 22-year-old righty, Wheeler could follow fellow Met Matt Harvey’s route — light up Triple-A and then spend half a season in the bigs, so keep your eye on this kid’s performance in the minors and consider him a possible second-half (or earlier) target in Fantasy leagues. Last year, Wheeler racked up tons of wins at Double-A before experiencing a slight reduction in K rate at Triple-A. Dealt to the Mets for Carlos Beltran, Wheeler stayed healthy last year and continued to flash his big time strikeout potential. His control needs improving, but landing this dude as part of their fire sale was one of the best moves the Mets have made in years. He’s going to be a huge part of the turnaround.
6. Oscar Taveras, OF, St. Louis Cardinals (46): We like Taveras enough to have slotted him 107th in our Outfield Rankings for this season. The Cards kept him around this spring until the final week, giving him more action than anyone (24 games, 76 at-bats). The fact that Taveras hit .289 with 10 RBI tells us that this 20-year-old is very close to helping St. Louis at the major league level. Hell, he’s just a Beltran injury away from playing at Busch after flashing emerging speed at Double-A (to go along with his power and tremendous BA skills). How special is this kid? Well, he’s elicited comparisons to a former Cardinal star, Albert Pujols. Perhaps you’ve heard of him? Signed as an undrafted free agent out of the Dominican in 2008, Taveras has elite on-base skills but his best attribute is his ability to hit for a high average (.336 in his career). He could stand to be more patient, but that approach has yet to slow him down. We’ll really be watching him this season to see how his power potential plays out, because there is a ton of untapped zap in his bat. Taveras is likely to debut in the bigs this year (either with St. Louis or elsewhere — could he be traded to Texas?) and by next season, he could be the team’s three-hole hitter. Yes, he’s that good.
5. Gerrit Cole, SP, Pittsburgh Pirates (9): In 2011, we had the pleasure of watching Cole face off against Hultzen in the AFL All-Star Game. The first overall pick in 2011, Cole is pitching at Triple-A this year and his first start was less than stellar, but he’s gotten much better since. This is a dude that proved he can win at High-A last year, forcing a promotion to Double-A and ultimately to Triple-A for a late-season start. Cole had a legitimate chance to earn a rotation spot this spring, but the Bucs felt a bit more seasoning in the minors would stead him well. He’s saying the right things, talking about staying disciplined, which is good to hear because he hasn’t always come across that way. In his first pro season, Cole recorded a combined ERA of 2.80 and while his slow start this year is a drag, we’re not worried. He’s got elite strikeout potential and our only concern is the home run ball (although he seemed to nip that in the bud at Double-A). In a word, Cole is still a bit raw, but his stuff is so phenomenal that he has a chance to be very, very special. We expect to see him in Pittsburgh at some point this season, barring a complete collapse or injury at Triple-A.
4. Taijuan Walker, SP, Seattle Mariners (25): The lead man of the Big Three for the Mariners, Walker was a first round supplemental pick in 2010. He’s repeating Double-A this season and his 2013 debut was less than inspiring, but he’s been dominant since. We have total faith in Walker’s 96 mph heater and believe he’s going to be threatening breaking into the rotation in Seattle by season’s end. He suffered plenty of losses in his first go round at Double-A, but he remains a top prospect. The Mariners’ Minor League Pitcher of the Year in 2011 earned some great experience last year and while the results weren’t encouraging, don’t think for a minute that Walker’s star has dimmed. He has really nice strikeout potential, and we’re pleased to see that his control has improved in each season, although there’s still a bit of work to be done in that regard. The bottom line here is that Walker has serious ace potential and we expect him to debut by in Seattle later this year and be a full-time rotation member by late 2014.
3. Wil Myers, OF, Tampa Bay Rays (15): We like Myers enough that we slotted him 84th in our Outfield Rankings. KC’s third rounder from 2009, he became the biggest prospect to be moved this offseason when he was dealt to TB as the Rays finally tried to turn some of their pitching depth into offense. However, Myers has started the season at Triple-A, batting third for the Durham Bulls. The Rays, being the Rays, have opted to keep him in the minors until the Super Two deadline passes in mid-June. Yes, they need him now. And yes, they deserve to languish with their pathetic offense. Myers got pulled from Thursday’s game — sparking speculation that he was about to be recalled, but the fact is he has a foot injury. At any rate, he made a mockery of Double-A last year, quickly prompting a promotion to Triple-A. Myers continued to flash impressive extra-base pop at Triple-A, but not quite as prodigiously as he had at Double-A. He struck out quite a bit last year and that will need to be addressed, but he’s already amassing another productive campaign at Triple-A in the early going this year (although not nearly as dominant as 2012). Myers is extremely patient, but offers middling speed. He is one of those throw back dudes that plays the game hard and isn’t afraid to get his uni dirty. Once the Rays finally bring Myers to the Show, that style of play will win him plenty of fans.
2. Dylan Bundy, SP, Baltimore Orioles (16): In late-August, we recommended Bundy as a waiver wire pickup and while he did wind up getting the call to B-More, he didn’t see enough action to make a Fantasy impact. Last month, his velocity was down and sure enough, there was something wrong — elbow tightness has landed him on the minor league DL, and he has yet to throw off a mound so there’s still no timetable for him to return to action. Bundy was only 19 last year when he whipped his way through three levels to reach the majors in his first pro season. Woah. He didn’t really have a shot to win a rotation spot this spring, but don’t for a moment think that it’s not possible for him to be starting for the Orioles before the end of the season, assuming he recovers shortly. Bundy went undefeated at Class-A before getting touched up a bit more at High-A. He then went undefeated before making a couple of relief appearances for the O’s. It had been nearly 50 years since the Orioles had a pair of teenagers (Manny Machado) debut in the same season, but the future has arrived in Charm City. Bundy really knows how to limit baserunners, but the decline in his K rate at Double-A was a tad worrisome. The fourth overall pick from 2011 is very close to returning to the majors — this time for good.
1. Jurickson Profar, SS, Texas Rangers (6): No one doubts that the game’s top prospect is ready for prime time, but there simply is not room for him in Texas yet. You know that almost any injury will open up PT for Profar, but for now he’ll start the season at Triple-A. The switch-hitter flashed nice extra-base power in his brief look in the bigs last year, and we’re excited to see what he’ll do in a longer look. Who knows? Maybe that opportunity will come elsewhere given the trade rumours that have surrounded Profar — which have only picked up since Texas signed shortstop Elvis Andrus to a long-term extension. Profar, who will need to make better contact in his next look in the Show, is proving he can easily handle Triple-A early this season. Signed out of Curacao as a free agent in 2009, he has shown great contact skills in the minors, so we’re not worried about his ability to adjust and really, there’s no one skill he lacks. Profar is a great athlete that was a two-way player and apparently a better pitcher, but Texas saw him as a shortstop. Judging by his rapid ascension up the ladder, the Rangers made the right call.
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