Ranking the 10 Most Big League-Ready Prospects
With the long and arduous baseball offseason now upon us (unfortunately), I’ll be publishing an increasing number of prospect rankings derived from both 2012 performances as well as expectations for next season.
So today, as I recuperate from a thoroughly enjoyable yet exhausting weekend across the country scouting the Arizona Fall League, I’ll be looking at the prospects I believe are the most big league-ready headed into the 2013 season.
Please keep in mind that just because a player reached the major leagues in 2012 doesn’t mean he is ready for a full season in The Show. At the same time, it’s definitely a strong indicator that he isn't too far away.
10. Jake Odorizzi, RHP, Kansas City Royals
2012 Stats (AA, AAA): 15-5, 145.1 IP, 3.03 ERA, 1.25 WHIP, 135/50 K/BB (26 G; 25 GS)
MLB Stats: 0-1, 7.1 IP, 4.91 ERA, 1.64 WHIP, 4/4 K/BB (2 GS)
After excelling at Double-A Northwest Arkansas to open the 2012 season, Jake Odorizzi, along with teammate Wil Myers, received a promotion to Triple-A Omaha before the All-Star break. The 22-year-old right-hander only furthered his success—in the hitter-friendly Pacific Coast League nonetheless—and was promoted to the major leagues for two starts in late September.
He’s probably not quite ready to open the 2013 season in the Royals’ starting rotation, though he’s certainly not far away. One specific area for improvement: Odorizzi needs to induce more ground-ball outs after posting a 0.44 ground out/air out rate over 145.1 minor-league innings this past season.
9. Zack Wheeler, RHP, New York Mets
2012 Stats (AA, AAA): 12-8, 149 IP, 3.26 ERA, 1.17 WHIP, 148/59 K/BB (25 GS)
Zack Wheeler excelled in his first full season with the Mets in 2012, as he pitched a majority of the year at Double-A before finishing his age-22 campaign with six starts at Triple-A. His plus fastball and curveball are among the best the minor leagues, and his changeup continues to come along ahead of schedule.
With Matt Harvey a lock for a spot in the Mets’ 2013 big league starting rotation, it shouldn't be long until Wheeler is ready to join him.
8. Dylan Bundy, RHP, Baltimore Orioles
2012 Stats (A-, A+, AA): 9-3, 103.2 IP, 2.08 ERA, 0.92 WHIP, 119/28 K/BB (23 GS)
MLB Stats: 1.2 IP, H, BB (2 G)
Ranked as the second-best prospect in the game behind Jurickson Profar, Dylan Bundy, 19, raced through the minor leagues this past season, as the right-hander finished his first pro season in the Orioles’ bullpen after opening for Low-A Delmarva. But given his athleticism, mound presence, overall arsenal and advanced feel for pitching, should we really be surprised?
The right-hander will likely open the 2013 season back at Double-A to refine his command and secondary offerings, but like so many other players on this list, it will be hard to keep him in the minor leagues any longer than absolutely necessary.
7. Trevor Bauer, RHP, Arizona Diamondbacks
2012 Stats (AA, AAA): 12-2, 130.1 IP, 2.42 ERA, 1.29 WHIP, 157/61 K/BB (22 GS)
MLB Stats: 1-2, 16.1 IP, 6.06 ERA, 1.65 WHIP, 17/13 K/BB (4 GS)
After reaching the major leagues in a little more than a year, Trevor Bauer was inconsistent in his four starts. He seemingly opted to pick at the strike zone rather than attack hitters with his arsenal of above-average to plus pitches.
Although his first stint in the Diamondbacks’ rotation was less than impressive, the 21-year-old right-hander has the upside of a frontline starter and should be ready for such a role at some point during the 2013 season.
6. Jurickson Profar, SS, Texas Rangers
2012 Stats (AA): .281/.368/.452, 47 XBH, 16 SB, 79/66 K/BB (126 G)
MLB Stats: .176/.176/.471, 3 XBH, 4/0 K/BB (9 G)
The top prospect in baseball, it’s hard to identify a weakness in Jurickson Profar’s game. The 19-year-old is a well-rounded prospect capable of making a game-changing impact in a variety of ways. The switch-hitting shortstop is electrifying in everything he does on the baseball field, and after thriving as one of the younger players in Double-A, he was called up to the major leagues in September.
Given his age, some additional time in the minor leagues to open the 2013 season wouldn’t hurt his development—though he’s so immensely talented that it may not be needed.
5. Travis d'Arnaud, C, Toronto Blue Jays
2012 Stats (AAA): .333/.380/.595, 39 XBH, 59/19 K/BB (67 G)
Over the first few months of the season, Travis d’Arnaud proved to be one of the more big league-ready position prospects in the minor leagues, as a late-season call-up appeared imminent. However, the 23-year-old suffered a torn knee ligament (PCL) at the end of June that prematurely ended his season.
Although he’s not participating in a winter league, it shouldn’t take him long to regain his 2012 form and take over as the Blue Jays’ everyday backstop.
4. Dan Straily, RHP, Oakland Athletics
2012 Stats (AA, AAA): 9-7, 152 IP, 2.78 ERA, 1.00 WHIP, 190/42 K/BB (25 GS)
MLB Stats: 2-1, 39.1 IP, 3.89 ERA, 1.32 WHIP, 32/16 K/BB (7 GS)
Over the course of the 2012 season, Dan Straily went from an organizational pop-up prospect to one of the top pitching prospects in the game. The 23-year-old made easy work of hitters at both Double and Triple-A en route to the seven starts with the A’s over the final months of the season.
He doesn’t have the upside of some of the other big league-ready arms on this list, but the right-hander has the potential to be a solid No. 4 or 5 starter for the A’s in 2013.
3. Chris Archer, RHP, Tampa Bay Rays
2012 Stats (AAA): 7-9, 128 IP, 3.66 ERA, 1.26 WHIP, 139/62 K/BB (25 GS)
MLB Stats: 1-3, 29.1 IP, 4.60 ERA, 1.23 WHIP, 36/13 K/BB (6 G; 4 GS)
When he’s around the plate, Chris Archer has as good of stuff as almost any young pitcher in the game. But despite his plus fastball and slider, and gradually developing changeup, the 24-year-old will likely never have the command to be a frontline starter in the major leagues.
However, he did lower his walk rate at Triple-A this past season, and most importantly, it translated at the major league level.
In my opinion, Archer is ready to open the season in the Rays’ rotation. The only remaining question is whether the organization will have a spot available for him.
2. Shelby Miller, RHP, St. Louis Cardinals
2012 Stats (AAA): 11-10, 136.2 IP, 4.74 ERA, 1.38 WHIP, 160/50 K/BB (27 GS)
MLB Stats: 1-0, 13.2 IP, 1.32 ERA, 0.95 WHIP, 16/4 K/BB (6 G; 1 GS)
After a disastrous first half of the season at Triple-A that included a 6.17 ERA and .291 BAA, Shelby Miller returned to his 2011 form after the All-Star break, as he posted a 2.88 ERA with 70/7 K/BB in 59.1 innings.
The resurgence ultimately earned him a September call-up in which he was equally impressive and made a strong case for consideration in the 2013 starting rotation. He may have just turned 22 in October; however, the 6’3”, 195-pound right-hander is ready for a full-season trial at the major league level.
1. Wil Myers, OF, Kansas City Royals
2012 Stats (AA, AAA): .314/.387/.600, 69 XBH, 109 RBI, 140/61 K/BB (134 G)
After a down year in 2011 due to a lingering knee injury, Wil Myers, 21, turned in a monster 2012 campaign between Double and Triple-A. Playing in 134 games, the right-handed hitting outfielder posted a .987 OPS including 37 home runs—the second-highest total among all minor leaguers.
For most of the season, there were demands for a big-league promotion, as he seemingly had nothing left to prove in the minor leagues. However, as a corner outfielder, Myers’ path was blocked by both Alex Gordon and Jeff Francoeur—and still is, technically.
However, given his potential as a run-producer in the middle of the Royals’ order, it’ll be hard to keep him in the minor leagues for much longer.