Creating the Perfect 25-Man Roster from MLB's Top Minor Leaguers
When composing this 25-man roster, my first tendency was to simply pick the top players at each position. However, while I ultimately did adhere to that model, I still wanted to create a realistic team—one that’s well rounded and could theoretically compete in a game.
So, after spending the day delving through stats and video, I’ve finally put the finishing touches on the roster. And while a majority of the prospects on the team currently reside in the upper-minors, and several have reached the major leagues, I also made an effort to include a few lesser-known but highly talented prospects.
C: Travis d’Arnaud, Toronto Blue Jays
2012 Stats (AAA): .333/.380/.595, 39 XBH (16 HR), 59/19 K/BB; 30% CS (66 G)
The top-ranked catching prospect in the minor leagues, d’Arnaud would have likely spent the final month of the season (if not more) as the Blue Jays’ backstop had it not been for a season-ending knee injury (torn PCL). Not only does the 23-year-old hit for both average and power, but his defense is nearly big league-ready as well.
C: Christian Bethancourt, Atlanta Braves
2012 Stats (AA): .243/.275/.291, 7 XBH, 26 RBI, 8 SB, 45/11 K/BB; 39% CS (71 G)
While there are a host of offense-oriented catchers in the minor leagues, Bethancourt makes this team because he’s the exact opposite.
The 20-year-old struggled offensively this season as one of the younger players in Double-A. However, his defense was outstanding once again as he threw out 39 percent of base stealers.
1B: Jonathan Singleton, Houston Astros
2012 Stats (AA): .284/.396/.497, 52 XBH (21 HR), 79 RBI, 131/88 K/BB (131 G)
The top first base prospect in the game, Singleton enjoyed a breakout campaign as a 20-year-old in Double-A. He still strikes out too much and struggles against left-handed pitching, but his power emerged in a big way this season with 20 home runs in 131 games.
2B: Kolten Wong, St. Louis Cardinals
2012 Stats (AA): .287/.348/.405, 38 XBH (9 HR), 52 RBI, 21 SB, 74/44 K/BB (126 G)
The Cardinals’ first-round draft pick in 2011, Wong was expected to move quickly this season due to his above-average, left-handed hit tool and excellent defense.
Although he didn’t quite produce as the organization hoped, he’s a likely candidate for a 2013 big league debut.
SS: Francisco Lindor, Cleveland Indians
2012 Stats (A-): .257/.352/.355, 33 XBH (24 2B), 27 SB, 78/61 K/BB (122 G)
The No. 8 overall selection in the 2011 draft, Lindor has already received widespread recognition as one of the best (if not the best) defensive shortstops in the minors.
While it’s doubtful he’ll ever hit for much power, the switch-hitter has an impressive hit tool from both sides of the plate and possesses advanced plate discipline relative to his age (18).
MIF: Nick Franklin, Seattle Mariners
2012 Stats (AA, AAA): .278/.347/.453, 52 XBH (11 HR), 55 RBI, 12 SB, 106/48 K/BB (121 G)
After an injury-filled down season in 2011, Franklin reminded everyone of why he’s one of the game’s top middle infield prospects by posting an .800 OPS between Double- and Triple-A in his age-21 season. Upon reaching Triple-A, the switch-hitter saw more time at second base where his range and arm are a more natural fit.
3B: Anthony Rendon, Washington Nationals
2012 Stats (Rk, A-, A+, AA): .233/.363/.489, 18 XBH (6 HR), 29/23 K/BB (43 G)
Regarded as the best hitter in the 2011 draft class, it was conceivable that Rendon could reach the major leagues this year with a strong season in the minor leagues. However, he fractured his ankle in the second game of the year at High-A and didn’t return until late July.
Still, the 22-year-old managed to log 21 games at Double-A over the final month of the minor league regular season and seems poised for a big 2013 campaign.
CIF: Matt Davidson, 3B, Arizona Diamondbacks
2012 Stats (AA): .261/.367/.469, 53 XBH (23 HR), 76 RBI, 126/69 K/BB (135 G)
Despite a dangerously high strikeout total at High-A in 2011, Davidson spent the entire 2012 season at Double-A where his plate discipline was vastly improved. And after splitting time between both corner infield positions last year, it seems that he’ll be permanently entrenched at the hot corner going forward.
UTIL: Nick Castellanos, 3B/LF/RF, Detroit Tigers
2012 Stats (A+, AA): .320/.365/.451, 46 XBH (10 HR), 57 RBI, 118/36 K/BB (134 G)
Castellanos, 20, gets the nod in the utility spot considering that he played right field almost exclusively following the All-Star break. While the power should emerge over time, his hit tool is highly impressive and was highlighted by a .405 batting average in 55 games at High-A Lakeland prior to a promotion to Double-A.
OF: Oscar Taveras, St. Louis Cardinals
2012 Stats (AA): .321/.380/.572, 67 XBH (23 HR), 94 RBI, 10 SB, 56/42 K/BB (124 G)
As a 20-year-old in Double-A this past season, Taveras emerged as arguably the best pure hitter in the minor leagues. The left-handed hitter’s power arrived ahead of schedule against advanced competition, and he exhibited excellent plate discipline as well as the ability to drive the ball from line to line.
OF: Wil Myers, Kansas City Royals
2012 Stats (AA, AAA): .314/.387/.600, 69 XBH (37 HR), 109 RBI, 140/61 K/BB (134 G)
Like Nick Franklin, Myers had a poor 2011 campaign due to a lingering knee injury that hampered his power. This season, however, the 21-year-old came out of the gates swinging the bat with authority, as he finished the year with the second-highest home run total in the minor leagues.
OF: Billy Hamilton, Cincinnati Reds
2012 Stats (A+, AA): .311/.410/.420, 112 R, 38 XBH (14 3B), 155 SB, 113/86 K/BB (132 G)
After spending his entire professional career as a shortstop, the Reds recently announced they’ll move Hamilton to center field—a decision many expected to happen in the near future.
And after stealing a record-breaking 155 bases and posting a career-best .410 OBP, the fact that he’s now a center fielder should only accelerate his arrival in the major leagues.
OF: Christian Yelich, Miami Marlins
2012 Stats (A+): .330/.404/.519, 46 XBH (12 HR), 20 SB, 85/49 K/BB (106 G)
Possessing one of the quietest and sweetest left-handed swings in the minor leagues, Yelich, 20, is incredibly advanced for his age and should be able to stick in center field. With a plus hit tool and above-average speed, he has the potential to start moving quickly through the Marlins’ system in 2013.
No. 1: Dylan Bundy, RHP, Baltimore Orioles
2012 Stats (A-, A+, AA): 9-3, 103.2 IP, 2.08 ERA, 0.916 WHIP, 5.8 H/9, 10.3 K/9, 2.4 BB/9 (23 GS)
Another 2011 first-rounder who enjoyed a historic rise to the big leagues, Bundy did not allow an earned run over his first 30 innings while posting a video game-like 40/2 K/BB for Low-A Delmarva.
The top pitching prospect in the game, the right-hander was ultimately called up to the major leagues and made two appearances out of the Orioles’ bullpen.
No. 2: Jose Fernandez, RHP, Miami Marlins
2012 Stats (A-, A+): 14-1, 134 IP, 1.75 ERA, 0.925 WHIP, 6.0 H/9, 0.1 HR/9, 10.6 K/9, 2.4 BB/9 (25 GS)
Pitching in his first professional season as a 19-year-old, Fernandez unexpectedly emerged as an elite pitching prospect this year as he dominated at both Low- and High-A. The right-hander possesses an arsenal of above-average to plus pitches, and his overall pitchability grades through the roof.
No. 3: Zack Wheeler, RHP, New York Mets
2012 Stats (AA, AAA): 12-8, 149 IP, 3.26 ERA, 6.9 H/9, 0.2 HR/9, 8.9 K/9, 3.6 BB/9 (25 GS)
In his first full season with the Mets this year, the 6’4” right-hander spent most of the year at Double-A, posting a 3.26 ERA and 9.1 K/9 before a late-season promotion to Triple-A. The 22-year-old has made improvements in each of his three minor league seasons, and it’s a safe bet that he reaches the major leagues in late 2013.
No. 4: Shelby Miller, RHP, St. Louis Cardinals
2012 Stats (AAA): 11-10, 136.2 IP, 4.74 ERA, 10.5 K/9, 3.3 BB/9 (27 GS)
After a disastrous first half of the season at Triple-A, Miller righted the ship after the All-Star break and was ultimately a September call-up for the Cardinals.
Even though the right-hander still needs to rely less on his fastball, especially against major league hitters, he’s definitely made a case for a spot at the back end of the Cardinals’ starting rotation in 2013.
No. 5: Tony Cingrani, LHP, Cincinnati Reds
2012 Stats (A+, AA): 10-4, 146 IP, 1.73 ERA, 1.027 WHIP, 5.9 H/9, 10.2 K/9, 3.9 BB/9 (16 G; 15 GS)
After an impressive professional debut last season in the rookie-level Pioneer League, Cingrani, 22, enjoyed a rapid ascent to the major leagues this year after beginning at High-A. Primarily a fastball-changeup pitcher, the southpaw is adept to missing bats despite not possessing overpowering stuff.
LRP: Sam Selman, LHP, Kansas City Royals
2012 Stats (Rk): 5-4, 60.1 IP, 2.09 ERA, 1.11 WHIP, 13.28 K/9, 3.28 BB/9 (13 G; 12 GS)
A second-round draft pick this past June, Selman was named the Pioneer League’s pitcher of the year after his excellent professional debut. The left-hander will need to develop a changeup to remain a starter, but his plus fastball-slider combination gives him a bright future as a reliever.
RP: Vic Black, RHP, Pittsburgh Pirates
2012 Stats (AA): 2-3, 13 SV, 60 IP, 1.65 ERA, 1.15 WHIP, 6.0 H/9, 12.8 K/9, 4.4 BB/9 (51 G)
A supplemental first-rounder in 2009, Black missed most of the 2010 season with various arm problems and didn’t truly return to form until this year. The right-hander has all the makings of a future closer with a deceptively quick fastball and plus slider, as well the ability to consistently draw swing-and-misses.
RP: Rob Wort, RHP, Washington Nationals
2012 (A+): 2-4, 13 SV, 56.2 IP, 2.38 ERA, 1.08 WHIP, 15.09 K/9, 3.02 BB/9 (40 G)
Even though it was his third consecutive season at High-A, the 23-year-old finally improved his command this year, registering the second-best walk rate of his career. He’ll likely begin the 2013 season at Double-A, and if his command holds up, the right-hander may be fast-tracked to the major leagues.
RP: Andrew Chafin, LHP, Arizona Diamondbacks
2012 Stats (A+): 6-6, 122.1 IP, 4.93 ERA, 1.48 WHIP, 11.0 K/9, 5.1 BB/9 (30 G; 23 GS)
Chafin worked primarily as a starter this year in his full-season debut, but endured a two-month bout in which he couldn’t find the strike zone. The organization may choose to proceed with the development of the left-hander as a starter, but there’s a strong chance he ends up in the bullpen given his command problems and choppy mechanics.
RP: Ajay Meyer, RHP, Toronto Blue Jays
2012 Stats (A-): 3-3, 33 SV, 56.1 IP, 3.67 ERA, 1.065 WHIP, 9.1 K/9, 2.1 BB/9 (50 G)
Meyer, a 6’6” right-handed pitcher, saved 33 games this season in his full-season debut for Low-A Lansing while demonstrating impressive command. His ERA was somewhat inflated as he allowed seven home runs in 56.1 innings, though it hardly detracts from his overall performance.
SU: Mark Montgomery, RHP, New York Yankees
2012 Stats (A+, AA): 7-2, 15 SV, 64.1 IP, 1.54 ERA, 0.886 WHIP, 4.9 H/9, 13.8 K/9, 3.1 BB/9 (46 G)
An 11th -round draft pick in 2011, Montgomery reached Double-A this year in his full-season debut. With an above-average fastball and plus slider, the right-hander piles up strikeouts and now has 150 in 92.2 career innings.
Currently pitching in the Arizona Fall League, it’s possible that he will contend for a spot in the Yankees’ bullpen next season out of spring training
CL: Carter Capps, RHP, Seattle Mariners
2012 Stats (AA, AAA): 2-3, 19 SV, 51.1 IP, 1.23 ERA, 1.013 WHIP, 13.1 K/9, 2.1 BB/9 (39 G)
Boasting a fastball that consistently flirts with triple digits, it took Capps just a little over a year to reach the major leagues. With a jerky delivery and quick arm, the 6’5” right-hander has struggled to adopt a legitimate secondary offering.
However, considering his plus-plus fastball and the fact that he’s only 21, there’s still plenty of time.