Ranking the Top Prospects at Every Position Heading into 2013
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Over the last month I’ve continued to rank each organization’s top 10 prospects, typically breaking down anywhere from three to five teams per week. In turn, I’ve had the opportunity to examine countless prospects at a number of positions, many of whom appeared in my overall top-50 rankings over the course of the season.
As part of my ongoing end-of-season/year-ahead player analysis, I thought that I’d put together a larger article that highlights the top prospects at each position. While only a small number of the players featured in this piece will reach the majors during the 2013 season, each has the potential to be impact players in the big leagues.
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1. Dylan Bundy, Baltimore Orioles
Overview: The top pitching prospect in the game ultimately reached the major leagues after opening the year with 30 scoreless innings at Low-A Delmarva.
2. Taijuan Walker, Seattle Mariners
Overview: At 6’4”, 210 pounds, Walker is still very raw. But given his athleticism, arsenal and experience—he pitched the entire 2012 season as a 19-year-old at Double-A Jackson—he arguably has the highest ceiling among all pitching prospects.
3. Zack Wheeler, New York Mets
Overview: Wheeler took another step toward the major leagues last season, as his success at Double-A Binghamton led to a late-season promotion to Triple-A Buffalo.
4. Gerrit Cole, Pittsburgh Pirates
Overview: the 6’4”, 220-pound right-hander is the epitome of a power pitcher and boasts three plus-pitches that will translate in the major leagues.
5. Jose Fernandez, Miami Marlins
Overview: Fernandez was dominant in his full-season debut in 2012, registering a 1.75 ERA with 158/35 K/BB in 134 innings between Low-A Greensboro and High-A Jupiter.
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1. Tyler Skaggs, Arizona Diamondbacks
Overview: Skaggs features a swing-and-miss, plus breaking ball that ranks as one of the best in the minor leagues. Expect him to be sharper in 2013, as his six big-league starts last season came shortly after his 21st birthday.
2. Danny Hultzen, Seattle Mariners
Overview: After thriving at Double-A Jackson to open the season, Hultzen, a command-oriented southpaw, lost a feel for the strike zone and registered a 5.92 ERA with 57/43 K/BB in 48.2 innings following a promotion to Triple-A Tacoma.
3. Martin Perez, Texas Rangers
Overview: The 21-year-old left-hander had command problems last season in the major leagues, but is still young with plenty of upside.
4. Jesse Biddle, Philadelphia Phillies
Overview: Biddle’s refined command of his three-pitch mix resulted in a 3.22 ERA and 151 strikeouts in 142.2 innings last season in the pitcher-friendly Florida State League (High-A).
5. Tony Cingrani, Cincinnati Reds
Overview: A closer in college, Cingrani has thrived since moving to the rotation upon turning pro. Opening the 2012 season at High-A Bakersfield, the southpaw turned in one of the more dominant campaigns among all pitching prospects, which concluded with three appearances out of the Reds’ bullpen in September.
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1. Travis d’Arnaud, New York Mets
Overview: The top catching prospect in the game was on pace for a big-league debut in late 2012, but suffered a season-ending knee injury (torn PCL in left knee). d’Arnaud was recently traded by the Blue Jays to the Mets in exchange for R.A. Dickey.
2. Mike Zunino, Seattle Mariners
Overview: After a storied career at the University of Florida, Zunino, the third-overall draft pick in 2012, raked his way to Double-A Jackson by posting a 1.137 OPS with 13 home runs in 44 games across two levels.
3. Gary Sanchez, New York Yankees
Overview: Sanchez had a breakout offensive season in which he posted an .829 OPS and reached High-A Tampa. However, his defense remains a concern.
4. Austin Hedges, San Diego Padres
Overview: Arguably the top defensive catcher in the minor leagues, Hedges’ bat was better-than-expected last season, as he batted .279/.334/.451 in 96 games for Low-A Fort Wayne.
5. Jorge Alfaro, Texas Rangers
Overview: A physical specimen at 6’2”, 185 pounds, the highly athletic backstop showcased all-star-caliber tools and established a high ceiling, though there’s a large gap between present and future.
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1. Jonathan Singleton, Houston Astros
Overview: The left-handed hitter improved his power frequency last season as a 20-year-old at Double-A Corpus Christi, batting .284/.396/.497 with 52 extra-base hits and 88 walks.
2. Dan Vogelbach, Chicago Cubs
Overview: The definition of a BBP (bad body prospect), Vogelbach’s success will always be tied directly to his production. The good news is that the 6’, 250-pound (generously listed) left-handed hitter can absolutely mash.
3. C.J. Cron, Los Angeles Angels
Overview: Cron had a monster offensive season in his full-season debut in 2012, posting an .843 OPS with 61 extra-base hits and 123 RBI in the hitter-friendly California League.
4. Matt Adams, St. Louis Cardinals
Overview: The 6’3”, 230-pound first-base-only prospect reached the major leagues last season and batted .244/.286/.384 with 24 strikeouts in 27 games with the Cardinals. Unfortunately, his season was cut short when an lingering elbow injury required surgery in mid-August.
5. Darin Ruf, Philadelphia Phillies
Overview: The 26-year-old isn’t your typical prospect, and, in my opinion, isn’t even one of the Phillies’ top 10 prospects. However, the right-handed hitter’s power is legitimate, as evidenced by his minor-league-leading 38 home runs (and three more in the major leagues as a September call-up).
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1. Kolten Wong, St. Louis Cardinals
Overview: As expected, Wong enjoyed a well-rounded full-season debut in 2012, batting .287/.348/.405 in 126 games for Double-A Springfield. It shouldn’t be long until the 22-year-old assumes duties as the Cardinals’ everyday second baseman.
2. Eddie Rosario, Minnesota Twins
Overview: The left-handed hitter’s production (.846 OPS, 48 XBH, 11 SB) didn’t suffer despite moving from the outfield to second base prior to the 2012 season.
3. Delino DeShields, Houston Astros
Overview: After a disappointing full-season debut in 2011 at Low-A Lexington, DeShields repeated and mastered that level last season, and stole 101 bases in 135 games over two levels.
4. Carlos Sanchez, Chicago White Sox
Overview: Virtually unknown heading into the 2012 season, Sanchez’s potential above-average-to-plus hit tool and defensive versatility allowed him to reach Triple-A Charlotte after opening the year at High-A Winston-Salem.
5. Rougned Odor, Texas Rangers
Overview: The undersized second baseman has substantially more power than his frame suggests, and offers a promising blend of power and speed at an up-the-middle position.
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1. Anthony Rendon, Washington Nationals
Overview: Rendon’s development has been repeatedly slowed by various injuries, but his hit tool remains one of the more projectable among all minor-league hitters.
2. Mike Olt, Texas Rangers
Overview: After blasting 28 home runs in 95 games at Double-A Frisco, Olt was promoted to the major leagues in early August but only appeared in 16 games over the final two months.
3. Miguel Sano, Minnesota Twins
Overview: Boasting true 80-grade raw power to all fields, Sano’s 28 home runs paced the Midwest League last season, and he showcased improved plate discipline (144/80 K/BB) in 129 games for Low-A Beloit. His defense, however, is an entirely different story.
4. Nolan Arenado, Colorado Rockies
Overview: Coming off a monster 2011 season in which he amassed 22 home runs and a minor-league-leading 122 RBI for High-A Modesto, Arenado’s production was solid but disappointing last season (.766 OPS) in his Double-A debut.
5. Matt Davidson, Arizona Diamondbacks
Overview: Challenged with a promotion to Double-A Mobile to open the 2012 season, Davidson demonstrated more consistency at the plate both in his approach (69 BB) and overall production (.261/.367/.469, 53 XBH).
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1. Jurickson Profar, Texas Rangers
Overview: The top prospect in the game, Profar improved across the board last season as a younger player at an advanced level. The 19-year-old made the jump from Double-A to the major leagues in September, and even launched a no-doubt home run in his first big-league plate appearance.
2. Francisco Lindor, Cleveland Indians
Overview: Spending his entire full-season debut at Low-A Lake County, Lindor showcased exactly why he’s regarded as the top defensive shortstop prospect in the game.
3. Xander Bogaerts, Boston Red Sox
Overview: The 6’3”, 175-pounder has raked at every level and seems destined to become the Red Sox’s future shortstop. As a 19-year-old this past season, Bogaerts posted an .883 OPS with 15 home runs in 104 games for High-A Salem before batting .326/.351/.598 in 23 games following a promotion to Double-A Portland.
4. Javier Baez, Chicago Cubs
Overview: The free-swinging shortstop began his full-season debut on an absolute tear, batting .333/383/.596 with 27 extra-base hits (12 home runs) and 20 stolen bases in 57 games for Low-A Peoria. His lack of plate discipline and inability to coax a walk was exploited upon reaching High-A—69/14 K/BB overall in 80 games across two levels.
5. Carlos Correa, Houston Astros
Overview: The No. 1 overall draft pick in 2012, Correa has the potential for five average-to-plus tools by the time he reaches the major leagues. He’s still incredibly raw, but should be able to refine his overall skill set with more experience.
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1. Oscar Taveras, St. Louis Cardinals
Overview: The purest hitter in the minor leagues, Taveras has the potential to be something special. His strength and hand-eye coordination are unparalleled among minor-league hitters.
2. Wil Myers, Kansas City Royals
Overview: After a disappointing, injury-plagued 2011 season at Double-A Northwest Arkansas, Myers quieted his skeptics in a big way this past season by batting .314/.387/.600 with 37 home runs in 134 games between Double-A and Triple-A Omaha.
3. Billy Hamilton, Cincinnati Reds
Overview: The fastest baseball player of all time, Hamilton shattered the modern stolen-base record last season with 155 in 132 games. Equally as important was that he improved his on-base skills and contact rate. The Reds opted to move the former shortstop to the outfield prior to the start of the Arizona Fall League.
4. Christian Yelich, Miami Marlins
Overview: With a smooth, rhythmic left-handed swing, Yelich batted .330/.404/.519 with 20 stolen bases last season in the pitcher-friendly Florida State League. Given the Marlins’ lack of long-term big-league talent, the 6’4”, 189-pound outfielder could start moving quickly this season.
5. Nick Castellanos, Detroit Tigers
Overview: Castellanos enjoyed a red-hot start to his sophomore campaign, batting .405/.461/.553 in 55 games for High-A Lakeland. The 20-year-old was subsequently promoted to Double-A Erie, where advanced pitching proved to be a challenge. It’s also important to note that the 6’4”, 210-pound outfielder was ask to move from third base to the outfield around the same time.