Although baseball’s prospect landscape was drastically altered with the graduation of both Bryce Harper and Mike Trout to the major leagues, the 2012 season also gave rise to a new crop of future superstars.
The game’s top prospects for the 2013 season, shortstop Jurickson Profar and right-hander Dylan Bundy, each received a taste of the major leagues as teenagers last year and appear poised for big things.
Oscar Taveras and Wil Myers emerged as two of the top offensive prospects last season, and they figure to serve as middle-of-the-order run-producers for years to come. Meanwhile, speedster Billy Hamilton has the potential to be the game’s most exciting player with his elite speed.
Here's a review of the top five prospects of the 2012 season.
After stealing 103 bases during his full-season debut at Low-A Dayton in 2011, Hamilton improved in all facets of the game last season—especially on the basepaths.
Playing in 132 games over two levels, Hamilton, 22, stole a record-breaking 155 bases while batting .311/410/.420 with 112 runs scored and 86 walks.
A switch-hitter, Hamilton is the fastest player in the game—and the fastest I’ve ever witnessed on a baseball field. More importantly, his approach was drastically improved this past season, as he finally showcased on-base skills and truly utilized his plus-plus speed.
He’s a better hitter from the left side and shows more power, but his increased contact and refined approach from his natural right side was vital to his overall development.
A shortstop since he was drafted, the Reds decided to move him to center field this fall; his glove and range were average at shortstop, but his long arm stroke led to excessive throwing errors.
His speed will help him compensate for poor reads a majority of time, and he projects to be an above-average defensive outfielder.
After a down year at Double-A Arkansas in 2011—he suffered a knee wound early in the spring that plagued him throughout the entire season—Myers made up for lost time with a monster 2012 campaign.
The 22-year-old opened the year back at Double-A and quickly demonstrated mastery of the level by batting .343/.414/.731 with 13 home runs in 35 games. That earned him a promotion to Triple-A Omaha.
Playing in Omaha’s hitter-friendly environment in the Pacific Coast League, Myers batted. 304/.378/.554 with 24 home runs in 99 games. His 37 home runs between two levels ranked second in the minor leagues (one behind Darin Ruf, Phillies).
Although Myers was more than ready to make his big-league debut last September, the Royals opted to keep him in the minor leagues for entire minor league season.
Myers, along with fellow prospects Jake Odorizzi, Mike Montgomery and Patrick Leonard, was traded to the Kansas City Royals last week in exchange for right-handers James Shields and Wade Davis.
It’s uncertain whether he’ll open the 2013 season as Tampa's right fielder or make a brief stop at Triple-A Durham first. Regardless, once he arrives, he’ll hit.
After batting .386/.444/.584 in 78 games as a 19-year-old, Taveras staked his claim as the best pure hitter in the minor leagues last year with an even more impressive season at Double-A Springfield.
Playing in a career-high 124 games, the left-handed hitting outfielder batted .321/.380/.572 with 67 extra-base hits (23 home runs), 94 RBI and 56/42 K/BB.
Taveras possesses some of the best hand-eye coordination and bat-to-ball ability that I’ve ever seen in a young hitter. He drives every pitch from line to line with power, showcasing an incredible ability to barrel the ball.
If you can’t already tell, I’m pretty excited about this guy. He’s the real deal with the bat and could even play center field in a pinch—he played 93 games in center last season.
The fourth overall draft pick in 2011, Bundy enjoyed a meteoric rise to the major leagues last season after opening the year at Low-A Delmarva.
The 6’1”, 195-pound right-hander began his professional career with 30 consecutive scoreless innings (at Delmarva) in which he allowed only five hits and two walks while amassing 40 strikeouts.
The 19-year-old was promptly bumped to High-A Frederick where his command was challenged for the first time. However, Bundy was still overwhelmingly good with a 2.84 ERA, .230 BAA and 66 strikeouts in 57 innings.
He was promoted once again in mid-August, this time to Double-A Eerie. He registered a 3.24 ERA in three starts to finish the season—or so he thought.
With a depleted bullpen after two late-night extra-inning contests with the Mariners, the Orioles ultimately called up Bundy (from the instructional league) to aid them down the stretch.
The right-hander appeared in two games, allowing both a hit and walk in 1.2 innings. It’s doubtful that Bundy will begin the 2013 season with the Orioles, but it shouldn’t be long until he returns.
Profar, 19, emerged as the top prospect in the game this past season as one of the younger players at the Double-A level.
The switch-hitter made significant improvements from both sides the plate, batting .281/368/.452 with 47 extra-base hits (14 home runs) and 16 stolen bases against more advanced pitching.
Equally as important were the adjustments in his plate discipline. Profar walked 66 times compared to 79 strikeouts in 126 games.
The 6'0'', 165-pound shortstop was promoted to the major leagues in September when the rosters expanded, though his playing time was limited to only nine games. However, he did crush a no-doubt home run in his first career plate appearance, left-handed, against the Indians.
Profar has all the makings of a future superstar. If the Rangers are smart, they’ll work out a way to get him in the Opening Day lineup.