Top Ten MLB Prospects of 2012 Offseason Edition: Forecasting Tomorrow's Stars

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Top Ten MLB Prospects of 2012 Offseason Edition: Forecasting Tomorrow's Stars
Jamie Squire/Getty Images
Outfielder Wil Myers, Kansas City Royals (#1 Prospect)

While it will take a lot of fishing to find the next Trout, top prospect lists serve as an adequate radar for the game's next influx of stars.

At the start of the 2012 season, most publications had the top three consisting of Bryce Harper, Mike Trout and Matt Moore, two of which have gone on to have memorable rookie seasons. With all three in the big leagues, the next prospects in line have risen to the top of the list because of their performances this season.

We've already had a brief taste of Jurickson Profar, Trevor Bauer and Dylan Bundy, but next season will feature many names from the top of the list as they forge their own major league identity. Here are the names you need to know going into 2013:

1. OF Wil Myers (KC)

Drafted by the Royals in the third round of the 2009 draft, Myers originally was tried behind the plate by Kansas City before moving to the outfield.

After losing much of his prospect stock due to a poor offensive season in 2011, Myers has rediscovered his groove at the plate and looked like one of the best hitters in the minor leagues in 2012. Myers finished with career highs in home runs (37) and RBI (109), tacking on a .600 slugging percentage and .987 OPS.

He made the transition from AA to AAA seamlessly, displaying the same power and ability to use the whole field. An average defender at best in the outfield, Myers was tested in center field this year with mixed results.

Regardless of where he plays, Myers bat will be his ticket to the show. The Royals didn't want to rush Myers and kept him in the minors even after September call-ups, but don't expect them to wait long in 2013 if Myers returns to form.

Starting Pitcher Jose Fernandez, Miami Marlins

2012 Stats: .304 AVG/37 HR/109 RBI

Compares To: OF Jay Bruce (CIN)

2. RHP Jose Fernandez (MIA)

The Marlins first round pick in 2011 (14th overall), Fernandez has done nothing but dominant through two levels of minor league competition.

Between Greensboro (A) and Jupiter (A), Fernandez posted a combined 14-1 win-loss record, 1.75 ERA and 0.93 WHIP.

In 134 innings, he surrendered just two home runs, while striking out 158. A former Cuban defector, Fernandez has not only a strong physical build but likely is just as tough mentally considering his background.

He will start 2013 in the minors for the Marlins, but with Miami desperately needing pitching, his call could be sooner than expected. An encore to his tremendous 2012 campaign would certainly tempt the organization.

2012 Stats: 14-1 W-L/1.75 ERA/158 K

Compares To: RHP Felix Hernandez (SEA)

3. OF Oscar Taveras (STL)

Consistent .300 hitters are very hard to find, but Taveras may be of the sort. Singed as an undrafted free-agent by St. Louis in 2008, few have ascended the prospect rankings as quickly as Taveras in the last year.

His 2011 season was when the hype started, as Taveras hit .386 in 308 at-bats—adding eight home runs and 62 RBI.

In 2012, he continued his offensive assault in Springfield (AA), hitting .321 with 23 home runs and 94 RBI in his first season with more than 350 at-bats.

Taveras has showed marked improvement, especially considering he hit just .257 with one home run in his first season of pro ball (2009).

Since then, his average has been better than .300 in each season. With Carlos Beltran, Allen Craig and Matt Holliday occupying the St. Louis outfield, Tavares is waiting for his opportunity to arise with the Cardinals, regarded by many as the best pure hitter in the minor leagues.

Jamie Squire/Getty Images
Outfielder Oscar Taveras, St. Louis Cardinals

2012 Stats: .321 AVG/23 HR/94 RBI

Compares To: OF Carlos Gonzalez (COL)

4. SS Jurickson Profar (TEX)

A switch-hitting shortstop with incredible defensive range, Profar will have no problem finding a place to play in the big leagues.

Utility players with those skills can last a long time in the game, even if they hit .220 for their career. Profar looks to be capable of much more than that offensively and has already shown there may be more in the bag.

After a solid minor league season that yielded a .281 average, 14 home runs and 62 RBI, Profar responded by hitting a homerun in his first major league at-bat after being called up by the Rangers. 

Texas has Elvis Andrus and Ian Kinsler in its middle infield presently, but the Rangers are so high on the kid from Curacao that they may trade one of their incumbent middle infielders to open a spot.

They have already shunned all trade requests for Profar, so there is little doubting they have him in their plans--immediate or not

2012 Stats: .281 AVG/14 HR/62 RBI

Compares To: Starlin Castro (CHC)

5. RHP Dylan Bundy (BAL)

Jamie Squire/Getty Images
Starting pitcher Dylan Bundy, Baltimore Orioles.

After tossing 30 innings of scoreless baseball to start his professional career, word spread quickly about Bundy and his arsenal on the mound.

In that span, he allowed just five hits and showed more than enough to earn a quick promotion to Bowie (AA). His legend has led him all the way to a big league debut this season, but Bundy is not being rushed as a starter for Baltimore.

Most of his starts were between four and five innings this season in the minors, as Baltimore hopes to keep the workload light for the former first round pick.

All told, Bundy breezed through his first minor league season with a 9-3 record, 2.08 ERA and 0.92 WHIP. He looks incredibly advanced for a high school draftee, which could accelerate his path to the Orioles rotation if he builds on his success in 2013.

2012 Stats: 9-3 W-L/2.08 ERA/0.92 WHIP

Compares To: RHP Jeremy Hellickson (TB)

6. 3B Nick Castellanos (DET)

Hitting .400 or more in high school is a feat in itself; doing it in college is something that is increasingly rare. The last man to do it in the big leagues was Ted Williams, and it's been more than a half century since.

Castellanos hit .405 in 215 at-bats in Low-A ball this season, not exactly comparable to the "splendid splinter," but still an accomplishment worth noticing to say the least.

The Tigers certainly took note, bumping Castellanos up to (AA) for the last portion of the season. While his success there wasn't quite the same (.264 AVG), Castellanos still managed a .320 batting average in 537 at-bats between the two spots.

Castellanos has never shown exceptional power, but his gap-to-gap approach translates into a high average and lots of doubles. Some would say the drop in average was due to the rise in competition,  but fatigue could be just as easily blamed in Castellanos' case, who has had more than 500 at-bats in each of the last two seasons since being drafted.

Jamie Squire/Getty Images
Third baseman Nick Castellanos, Detroit Tigers

2012 Stats: .320 AVG/10 HR/57 RBI

Compares To: 3B Jordan Pacheco (COL)

7. RHP Trevor Bauer (ARI)

When watching Bauer pitch, it doesn't take long to draw Tim Lincecum comparisons simply based on their mechanics and physical appearance.

Both are sub six-foot pitchers who generate incredible velocity through elaborate windups. Both also have the tendency to be very streaky.

Because of their difficult mechanics, it's easy for both Bauer and Lincecum to get out of whack. A variety of moving body parts and an extreme amount of body whip create a difficult task when trying to repeat their delivery.

When they can do this, both can be among the best pitchers in the game. When they can't, both leave their fastballs elevated, hang their changeups and walk far more batters than they do when their mechanics are sound.

Bauer stormed through the minor leagues with one of the best strikeout per nine ratios in the minors, but stumbled once he was called up to the big league club in late August. A groin strain could partially be to blame, but watching Bauer's mechanics, it wasn't hard to tell something wasn't the same.

Things looked to return to form for him after being demoted back to Reno (AAA), so he could still be a part of Arizona's rotation plans next season with a strong spring.

2012 Stats: 12-2 W-L/2.24 ERA/157 K

Compares To: RHP Tim Lincecum (SF)

Shortstop Xander Bogaerts, Boston Red Sox.

8. SS Xander Bogaerts (BOS)

Most of the buzz around shortstop prospects was regarding Jurickson Profar in 2012, but next season that could change in a big way because of Bogaerts.

Built in the mold of a young Miguel Cabrera or Hanley Ramirez, Bogaerts hit .307 with 20 home runs and 81 RBI between A and AA.

His numbers were better than Profar's across the board, aside from stolen bases. Still developing into his body, there could be much more to come from Bogaerts who just turned 20.

He may not be the speedster and defensive whiz that Profar is, but there is little questioning Bogaerts ability at the plate. The Red Sox could experiment with Bogaerts as early as next season, especially after watching the impact Manny Machado had on the Orioles playoff run.

2012 Stats: .307 AVG/20 HR/81 RBI

Compares To: SS/3B Hanley Ramirez (LAD)

9. RHP Gerrit Cole (PIT)

The first overall pick in the 2011 draft out of UCLA, Cole is a polished and durable starter who has already glided through the system very quickly.

Starting in the Florida State League (Low A), he compiled a 5-1 record and 2.55 ERA before being moved up to Altoona (AA). He followed suit by posting a 2.90 ERA in 12 starts for Altoona before getting the bump to Indianapolis (AAA) at the end of the season.

With one of the best fastballs in the minors that has been clocked in the upper 90s, there is little doubt what Cole's best pitch is. If he can continue to develop his slider and secondary pitches, Pittsburgh could be featuring Cole in their rotation as soon as 2013.

Starting Pitcher Gerrit Cole, Pittsburgh Pirates

2012 Stats: 9-7 W-L/2.80 ERA/136 K

Compares To: Matt Cain (SF)

10. LHP Danny Hultzen (SEA)

2012 was a tale of two halves for Hultzen, who dominated the Southern League (Low A) in the first half before getting promoted all the way to Tacoma (AAA) for the remainder of the season. It may have been a case of too much, too soon for Hultzen, who struggled with his command and ended up going 1-4 with a 5.92 ERA in 12 starts.

It may also be a case of fatigue for Hultzen in his first full professional season, after never having dealt with the workload his was given in 2012.

His 43 walks in 48.2 innings pitched for Tacoma (AAA) raises a number of red flags, but if Hultzen can correct the flaw, there are few pitchers with a higher ceiling. Let's not forget, this is the same guy who was the 2010 ACC pitcher of the year for Virgina, while also hitting fourth in the order most of the year.

The second overall pick in the 2011 draft, Hultzen is being counted on to give Seattle someone to compliment and/or replace Felix Hernandez at the top of the rotation.

2012 Stats: 9-7 W-L/3.05 ERA/136 K

Compares To: LHP Cole Hamels (PHI)  

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