MLB All-Star Game 2012: 15 Minor Leaguers Who'll Be All-Stars Within 5 Years
For prospect enthusiasts like myself, this year’s MLB All-Star game has the potential to be especially memorable, with a record five rookies—Bryce Harper, Mike Trout, Wade Miley, Yu Darvish and Ryan Cook—slated to get in the game.
However, just because tonight’s contest features baseball’s No. 1 and No. 2 preseason prospects, don’t expect there to be a lack of up-and-coming talent in the 2013 Midsummer Classic.
In fact, over the next five years—granted, some players will debut earlier than others—the MLB All-Star game has the potential to feature a steady influx of highly-touted, top-ranked prospects.
Therefore, before we are all swept up in the excitement later tonight, I thought that I’d take a look at 15 prospects who have the potential to be big league All-Stars within the next five years.
Now, I didn’t necessarily pick all the logical or sexy choices. Rather, I selected the players that I believe will reach the major leagues within the next two or three years and have the potential to be All-Stars in their first seasons.
Travis d'Arnaud, C, Toronto Blue Jays
Triple-A: .333/.380/.595, 39 XBH (16 HR), 52 RBI, 59 K/19 BB (67 G)
It seemed as though Travis d’Arnaud would inevitably make his big league debut later this season. However, the top catching prospect in baseball was recently sidelined for six to eight weeks with a torn PCL in his knee, so a 2013 arrival is more realistic.
A right-handed hitter, d’Arnaud has plus power and should possess an above-average hit tool upon reaching the major leagues. His blocking and receiving skills have vastly improved over the last two seasons, and he’s always had a strong arm.
He has all the makings of a future All-Star catcher, and once he’s healthy and is given an everyday role with the Blue Jays, d’Arnaud should emerge as one of the top overall catchers in baseball.
Billy Hamilton, SS, Cincinnati Reds
High-A: .323/.413/.439, 79 R, 28 XBH (9 3B), 104 SB, 70 K/50 BB (82 G)
*Promoted to Double-A following the XM Futures Game
The fastest man in baseball is having an historic season on the basepaths, as he’s now swiped 104 bases in 125 chances—he stole 103 in 2011. But perhaps what’s most impressive is the fact that Hamilton has vastly improved his baseball skills, hitting for a higher average and showing the ability to get on base and utilize his speed.
I sincerely doubt that he’ll be able to stay at shortstop for much longer, so when he does make his first All-Star team, it’ll likely be as a second baseman.
Jurickson Profar, SS, Texas Rangers
Double-A: .292/.369/.473, 34 XBH (9 HR), 9 SB, 51 K/40 BB (81 G)
The unanimous top infield prospect in all of baseball, the 19-year-old Profar just continues to impress. He possesses an above-average hit tool from both sides of the plate that is highlighted by an advanced knowledge of the strike zone—especially for a player his age.
As he’s continued to get physically stronger, Profar has also seen a slight jump in his power totals. He has surprising strength for his size that, when bundled with his quick wrists and pitch recognition skills, could yield 15-to-25-home-run potential.
Beyond his obvious offensive potential, Profar is a stud at shortstop. He is a plus defender with excellent range and soft hands and also possesses a plus arm that will allow him to remain at the position.
Profar has the type of upside that could make him an All-Star in his first full professional season. He’s an exceptional all-around talent who has as bright a future as any prospect in baseball.
Dylan Bundy, RHP, Baltimore Orioles
Low-A: 1-0, 30 IP, 0.00 ERA, .053 BAA, 5 H, 40 K/2 BB (8 GS)
High-A: 4-2, 32.2 IP, 3.58 ERA, .254 BAA, 34 K/11 BB (7 GS)
Bundy features a 94-98 mph four-seam fastball that has topped out at 100 mph, as well as a low-90s two-seamer and upper-80s/low-90s cutter. In addition to his slew of fastballs, Bundy's arsenal also consists of a deuce that already grades as a plus pitch, and he has shown an advanced feel for his changeup.
His sheer strength allows for repeatable mechanics and a greater workload than one expects from a 19-year-old. Both his maturity and repertoire of plus pitches should make him a fast riser within the Orioles organization. He'll likely be the first prep arm from the 2011 draft class to reach the show and could be a big league All-Star by 2015.
Zack Wheeler, RHP, New York Mets
Double-A: 8-4, 92.2 IP, 2.62 ERA, .204 BAA, 88 K/35 BB (15 GS)
One of my favorite pitching prospects, Wheeler has a lean 6'4" frame, a quick arm and clean mechanics. Basically, when I watch Wheeler, I see a future No. 1.
His fastball runs as high as 97-98 mph; however, he usually works in the low- to mid-90s with explosive arm-side action on his two-seamer. His curveball is a sharp downer that buckles right-handed hitters, and he also throws a solid-average changeup that should be at least a third above-average offering by the time he reaches the major leagues.
While his command still needs some refinement, he’s excelled this season at Double-A and shows no signs of slowing down. Once he reaches the major leagues, it shouldn’t take Wheeler long to establish himself as a front-line starter.
Christian Yelich, OF, Miami Marlins
High-A: .315/.393/.560, 29 XBH (10 HR), 14 SB, 56 K/28 BB (58 G)
Yelich is still just 20 years old, but his hit tool already grades out as a plus and still has room to grow with improvement in his plate discipline. His swing is simple and fluid, which allows him to attack pitches throughout the entire strike zone.
Due to his level bat path, Yelich will never hit for overwhelming power unless he adds some loft to his swing, but I think he’ll have enough to belt a quiet 15 to 25 annually. As of now, most of his power is to the pull side, but he should start driving the ball out the other way with more experience.
His easy speed and good instincts on the bases suggest that Yelich will have 20/20, perhaps even 30/30, potential in his prime, which should land him on multiple All-Star teams.
Jose Fernandez, RHP, Miami Marlins
Low-A: 7-0, 79 IP, 1.59 ERA, .189 BAA, 99 K/18 BB (14 GS)
High-A: 1-0, 10 IP, 6.30 ERA, .231 BAA, 9 K/4 BB (2 GS)
Fernandez has a crisp fastball that sits at 92-96 mph with heavy sink, though he can reach back for 97-98 as needed.
But what’s been most impressive with Fernandez is that the right-hander already has three off-speed pitches in his arsenal, with the best being a hard, late-breaking slider that generates swings-and-misses. His curveball is a solid-average pitch that can get too loopy and lose its pace at times, so don’t be surprised if he begins to throw it less.
Fernandez also has an early feel for a changeup, which only furthers the thought that he could be a front-line starter.
Fernandez has been one of the best pitchers in all of the minor leagues this season and recently received a promotion to High-A prior to his appearance in the XM Futures Game. Once he reaches the major leagues, Fernandez has the potential to hit the ground running.
Tyler Skaggs, LHP, Arizona Diamondbacks
Double-A: 5-4, 69.2 IP, 2.84 ERA, .241 BAA, 71 K/21 BB (13 GS)
Triple-A: 1-0, 10 IP, 4.50 ERA, .350 BAA, 6 K/2 BB (2 GS)
Over the last two seasons, Skaggs has emerged as one of the game’s premier left-handed pitching prospects. He’s tall and lanky with a smooth yet deceptive arm action and repeatable mechanics that allow him to pound the knees with his 88-93 mph fastball.
Skaggs might have the best left-handed curveball in the minor leagues, a double-plus offering that keeps right-handed hitters off balance as much as it does lefties. He has a decent changeup that will get better with time, but it honestly doesn’t even matter when you have that good of a breaking ball.
Wil Myers, OF, Kansas City Royals
Double-A: .343/.414/.731, 25 XBH (13 HR), 30 RBI, 42 K/16 BB (35 G)
Triple-A: .315/.395/.636, 27 XBH (14 HR), 42 RBI, 43 K/24 BB (48 G)
Since entering the minor leagues in 2009, Myers has absolutely raked at every stop—excluding his injury-plagued 2011 campaign. He has quick wrists with outstanding bat control and plate coverage that allows him to drive the ball effortlessly to all fields.
By the time he makes his debut, Myers should have 20-plus-home-run potential and the ability to be a .310-.320 hitter. Needless to say, I’d be shocked if he doesn’t make an All-Star team by 2015.
His plate discipline is advanced beyond his years, and he’s comfortable hitting any pitch in any count. He’ll be nothing more than an average defensive outfielder, although the plus arm that made him an elite catching prospect is still there.
Jake Marisnick, OF, Toronto Blue Jays
High-A: .263/.349/.451, 31 XBH (18 2B), 10 SB, 55 K/26 BB (65 G)
Double-A: .158/.200/.263, 2 XBH, 6 K/0 BB (5 G)
Marisnick is an extremely athletic outfielder who will stick in center field due to his plus range, arm and offensive upside.
After struggling at Low-A following a midseason promotion in 2010, Marisnick repeated the level in 2011 with much better results. His .320 batting average was second best in the Midwest League, and his power blossomed after making an adjustment to his swing. He has enough pop to jump the yard to all fields and should only continue to get stronger. He’s an excellent and intelligent base stealer who has a high success rate over his minor league career.
He’s not a high-profile prospect like many other players on this list, but I think he’ll surprise a lot of people as he continues to ascend the Blue Jays system on his way to the major leagues.
Anthony Rendon, 3B/2B, Washington Nationals
High-A: 2-for-4, 2B, 3B, 2 BB (2 G)
Even though he’s not a physically imposing hitter, the Rice alumnus has a plus bat with plus power. But what I find most impressive about Rendon is his pitch recognition and ability to manipulate counts in his favor.
Despite his lack of professional experience, the right-handed hitter still profiles as one of the more advanced hitters in the minor leagues. Rendon manages to make consistent, hard contact and drives the ball to all fields with authority. As a third baseman, he's an above-average defender with solid instincts and a plus arm. There’s even been speculation that the Nationals may move him to second base to expedite his big league debut.
Unfortunately, in his second game of the season, Rendon suffered a fractured ankle while rounding third base. The ankle injury is his third in as many years, and it seems doubtful that he’ll return this season.
Gerrit Cole, RHP, Pittsburgh Pirates
High-A: 5-1, 67 IP, 2.55 ERA, .217 BAA, 69 K/21 BB (13 GS)
Double-A: 2-1, 11.2 IP, 4.63 ERA, .314 BAA, 13 K/1 BB (3 GS)
The No. 1 overall pick in the 2011 draft, Cole is your classic power pitcher with an electric arsenal. His fastball has been clocked as high as 102 mph over the past year, though he’ll sit in the upper 90s. When he’s efficient enough to pitch his slider off his fastball, it’s a legitimate strikeout pitch, and he has a decent changeup, given his velocity.
There’s no denying that Cole has ace potential, but I just don’t think he will breeze through the minor leagues as others do. Still, his arsenal is exceptional, and he has the potential to be a front-line starter for years to come.
Alex Meyer, RHP, Washington Nationals
High-A: 6-4, 84 IP, 3.32 ERA, .211 BAA, 98 K/34 BB (17 GS)
At 6’9”, Meyer features a fastball that sits in the mid to upper 90s and occasionally flirts with triple digits. His two-seam fastball, which registers in the low 90s, has big-time arm-side run and will need to become a more prevalent component of his arsenal.
When it’s on, Meyer’s plus slider is as a legitimate out pitch and generates plenty of swings-and-misses. Rounding out his arsenal is a steadily improving changeup, though it still needs considerable development to be a serviceable pitch at the big league level.
Given his towering frame, Meyer can lose his feel for his mechanics. His arms and legs get out of sync with his torso, causing balance issues throughout his delivery and with his arm slot.
Oscar Taveras, OF, St. Louis Cardinals
Double-A: .324/.372/.593, 46 XBH (17 HR), 63 RBI, 44 K/24 BB (80 G)
One of the more impressive hitters in all of the minors last season, Taveras won the Midwest League batting title with a .386 average—as a 19-year-old.
The left-handed hitter takes forceful hacks but somehow retains the ability to generate hard contact, mainly a result of his ridiculous hand-eye coordination and knowledge of the strike zone. Despite all the force behind it, his swing is balanced and smooth. His current gap power suggests that it may ultimately be an above-average tool.
His above-average speed has allowed him to play every outfield position so far, but his highest ceiling comes as a corner outfielder. Given his strong arm, he’s likely to end up in right field.
George Springer, OF, Houston Astros
High-A: .321/.401/.568, 78 R, 41 XBH (17 HR), 63 RBI, 20 SB, 98 K/42 BB (81 G)
Arguably one of the top five-tool prospects in the minors, Springer should have 30/30 potential by the time he reaches the major leagues. He has great lift in his swing and generates extension after contact, thus giving him power to all fields. His approach still needs considerable refinement, as he struggles between being overly aggressive and selective.
He has plus range in the outfield, and although he has more than enough arm to handle right field, Springer’s bat makes him considerably more valuable in center. His power-speed combo has been continually eye-opening this season, and he should have the potential to play in multiple All-Star games before the 2017 season.