Ranking MLB's Top 25 Can't-Miss Hitting Prospects of 2013

Joel ReuterFeatured ColumnistJanuary 25, 2013

Ranking MLB's Top 25 Can't-Miss Hitting Prospects of 2013

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    With spring training set to kick off, one of the most exciting parts of preseason baseball is the opportunity to see some of baseball's top prospects in action.

    The current prospect landscape is largely dominated by pitchers, but that is not to say there are not some fantastic position players working their way through the ranks of their respective franchises.

    Here is a look at the top 25 hitting prospects entering the 2013 season, a collection of guys who could make an impact this season and guys who are still a work in progress.

25. CF Jake Marisnick, Miami Marlins

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    Marisnick jumped onto the prospect radar with a solid 2011 season, as he hit .320 BA, 14 HR, 77 RBI with 37 steals as a 20-year-old in Single-A.

    His average dropped to .249 last season, as he scuffled in his first taste of Double-A, but he still has the tools to be an impact, top-of-the-order bat.

    He was shipped to the Marlins in their early offseason blockbuster deal with the Blue Jays, and he'll be a key part of what could be a lengthy rebuilding process in Miami.

24. C Gary Sanchez, New York Yankees

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    Though he was still only 19 years old last season, Sanchez was in his third minor league season and he continued to show impressive offensive skills.

    With a .290/.344/.485 slash line and 18 home runs he ranks as one of the best catching prospects in all of baseball even without taking into account his age.

    He spent half of last season at High Single-A and could see action at Double-A this coming season. He likely won't see the majors until 2015, but he's well ahead of the curve for a catcher and is the future behind the dish in New York.

23. SS Carlos Correa, Houston Astros

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    It was a bit of surprise when the Astros took Correa with the first-overall pick in last June's draft, but he has a fantastic skill set and boosted his stock greatly with some pre-draft workouts.

    His selection also allowed the Astros to pay over slot for Lance McCullers in the compensatory round, after he slipped due to signability issues.

    Correa has already drawn comparisons to Alex Rodriguez, and he'll play all of the upcoming season at the age of 18. He's a ways from making a big league contribution, but he has a chance to be a future superstar.

22. CF Jackie Bradley Jr, Boston Red Sox

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    The Red Sox got a top-10 talent in Bradley with the 40th-overall pick in the 2011 draft, as a broken wrist during his final season at South Carolina hurt his draft stock.

    He opened last season at High Single-A, hitting .315/.430/.482 and holding his own after a midseason promotion to Double-A.

    With Jacoby Ellsbury set to hit free agency at the end of the season, Bradley appears to be his heir apparent in center field and he could be up at midseason if Ellsbury is moved at the deadline.

21. CF George Springer, Houston Astros

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    One of the top college bats in the 2011 draft, the Astros took Springer with the 11th overall pick and he opened his full pro season last year at High Single-A.

    He put up fantastic numbers, hitting .302/.383/.526 with 24 home runs and 32 steals and earning a call-up to Double-A to close out the season.

    Springer turned 23 in September, and if he plays well in Double-A to kick off the season he could be patrolling center field in Houston before the season is over.

20. SS Nick Franklin, Seattle Mariners

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    Franklin turned in a .283 BA, 23 HR, 65 RBI, 25 SB season as a 19-year-old back in 2010, advancing to Double-A and shooting up prospect rankings.

    His stock dropped after an injury-plagued 2011 season to the point that he was not included in Baseball America's Top 100 prospects entering last season, but he got back on track last year.

    A solid defender, he doesn't have the glove that Brendan Ryan does but should have little trouble unseating him as the everyday shortstop at some point in 2013, perhaps even out of spring training.

19. CF Byron Buxton, Minnesota Twins

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    Viewed by many as the top overall prospect in the draft, the Twins were thrilled to see the Astros pass on Buxton with the No. 1 pick and snatched him up at No. 2.

    A phenomenal all-around athlete, Buxton signed in time to play 48 games in the Rookie League and hit .248/.344/.448 with five home runs and 11 stolen bases.

    He'll likely open his first pro season in Low Single-A, and the Twins will no doubt bring him along slowly. This ranking is purely on potential at this point, and he could shoot up this list with a strong showing in his first full pro season.

18. 3B Anthony Rendon, Washington Nationals

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    The top college hitter available in the 2011 draft, Rendon had a shot at going first overall but injuries cut into his production in his final season at Rice and he slipped to the Nationals at sixth overall.

    An ankle injury limited him last season, but he still advanced through four different levels to finish the season in Double-A.

    In all, he played 43 games last season and hit .233/.363/.489 with six home runs and 12 RBI in 133 total at-bats. If he can stay on the field he'll move quickly, but the Nationals will have to find a spot for him with Ryan Zimmerman blocking him at third base.

17. 3B Nolan Arenado, Colorado Rockies

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    A second round pick out of high school in 2009, Arenado enjoyed a breakout season in 2011 as he hit .298 with 20 home runs and 122 RBI at High Single-A.

    Those numbers were inflated a bit by the fact that he was playing in the hitter-friendly California League, and his stats were slightly less impressive at Double-A last season as his power numbers dropped to 12 home runs and 56 RBI.

    Still only 21, he'll likely repeat Double-A and could benefit greatly from a second season at the level. He may top out as a 20-HR guy, but he makes enough contact that he could hit .300 and should be a solid all-around offensive player for the Rockies. 

16. SS Francisco Lindor, Cleveland Indians

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    Widely regarded as the best fielding shortstop in the minor leagues, even at the age of 18 years old, Lindor was better than expected offensively in his first pro season last year.

    With a .257/.352/.355 line he showed better plate discipline than expected, and his speed was an asset as well with 27 steals.

    He turned 19 in November, so he'll play the whole upcoming season as a teenager. He may start the year back in Single-A, but he should be among the youngest players in Double-A by the end of the season and could move quickly if he continues to show an advanced offensive approach.

15. 3B Mike Olt, Texas Rangers

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    Olt made a name for himself in the Arizona Fall League last offseason, and he followed that strong performance up with a good campaign in his first Double-A action.

    The 23-year-old established himself as one of the game's top power prospects with 28 home runs and 82 RBI in 354 at-bats.

    He's blocked by Adrian Beltre at third base and now Lance Berkman at DH, so he'll likely open the season in the minors, but he'll play his way into a big league role if he hits like he did last season.

14. SS Javier Baez, Chicago Cubs

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    The ninth pick in the 2011 draft, Baez was terrific in his first pro season with a .294 BA, 16 HR, 46 RBI line and .888 OPS to go along with 24 steals and solid defense at shortstop.

    He got a taste of High Single-A to end the season, and will likely start there in 2013, but don't be surprised if he is in Double-A at some point in 2013 as a 20-year-old.

    His future may be at third base with Starlin Castro manning shortstop in Chicago, but with his bat speed and power potential his offense should play anywhere.

13. 2B/3B Jeff Gyorko, San Diego Padres

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    With a .319/.385/.529 slash line in three minor league seasons, Gyorko has shown solid offensive skills at each level as he's advanced through the Padres system.

    Last season, he hit .311 with 30 home runs and 100 RBI as a 23-year-old between Double-A and Triple-A, and he'll have a serious shot at making the Padres roster out of spring training.

    Naturally a third baseman, he is blocked by emerging star Chase Headley and his future appears to be at second base where his offense should rank among the best at the position.

12. CF Bubba Starling, Kansas City Royals

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    Starling is a hero in his hometown of Gardner, Kansas and was one of the top football recruits in the nation coming out of high school who was committed to play quarterback at the University of Nebraska.

    The Royals gave him a hefty $7.5 million signing bonus to lure him away from Nebraska, and he ranks as one of the few legitimate five-tool athletes in the game.

    His first pro season last year was a successful one, as he hit .275/.371/.485 with 10 home runs and 10 steals over 200 at-bats in the Rookie League. He's a project of sorts, but the payoff could be enormous a few years from now.

11. SS Xander Bogaerts, Boston Red Sox

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    Bogaerts, who turned 20 on October 1, followed up a breakout 2011 season with an even better campaign last season.

    After hitting .302 with 15 home runs and 64 RBI in High Single-A, he earned a call-up to Double-A and actually hit better with .326 average, five home runs and 17 RBI in 23 games.

    It remains to be seen if he'll stick at shortstop or shift to third base, but he has the offensive potential to be an impact bat at either position. A strong full season in Double-A could put him in line for a big league role in 2014 with Stephen Drew on a one-year deal.

10. C Mike Zunino, Seattle Mariners

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    The Mariners selected Zunino out of the University of Florida with the third pick in last season's draft, and he ended his pro debut last season in Double-A.

    After a phenomenal showing at Low Single-A in which he hit .373/.474/.736 with 10 home runs and 35 RBI in just 29 games, he played 15 games in Double-A and hit .333 BA with three home runs and eight RBI.

    With their trade of John Jaso this offseason, Zunino will at least a have a shot at claiming the starting catching job this spring, but one way or another expect him to be in the majors by midseason.

9. 1B Jonathan Singleton, Houston Astros

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    Acquired at the deadline in 2011 in the deal that sent Hunter Pence to the Phillies, Singleton is among the top power prospects in the game.

    He spent all of last season in Double-A at the age of 20 and put up terrific numbers, hitting .284/.396/.497 with 21 home runs in 461 at-bats.

    He'll serve a 50-game suspension to open the 2013 season after testing positive for marijuana, but he should pick up right where he left off upon his return. A key piece of the Astros rebuilding efforts, he could be in Houston for good by the end of the season.

8. CF Christian Yelich, Miami Marlins

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    A first-round pick out of high school in 2010, Yelich shot up prospect rankings with a terrific first full pro season in 2011. He hit .312/.388/.484 with 15 home runs and 32 steals.

    Being taken along slowly, he moved up one level to High Single-A last season and put up similar numbers of .329/.402/.516 with 12 home runs and 20 steals.

    He looks to be the center fielder of the future in Miami, but he is still a couple years away from contributing at the big league level.

7. SS/OF Billy Hamilton, Cincinnati Reds

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    Hamilton made headlines last season by stealing a ridiculous 155 bases, but he also took a major step forward as an all-around prospect.

    After hitting .278/.340/.360 in 2011, he improved across the board to .311/.410/.420 last season and saw his walks jump from 52 to 86 in roughly the same number of at-bats.

    A shortstop by trade, Hamilton could wind up playing in the outfield in the majors, but he'll have some time to figure that out as the Reds really have no spot for him on their 2013 roster, at least as of now.

6. C Travis D'Arnaud, New York Mets

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    d'Arnaud likely would have made his big league debut last season if not for a torn PCL that ended his season in late-June.

    At the time of the injury he was hitting .333/.380/.595 with 16 home runs and 52 RBI through 67 games in Triple-A and was on the verge of over-taking J.P. Arencibia for the major league job.

    The Blue Jays traded him to the Mets in the offseason in the deal that netted them R.A. Dickey, and with John Buck just keeping the position warm for him he'll be starting as soon as the Mets deem him ready.

5. RF Nick Castellanos, Detroit Tigers

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    Castellanos destroyed High Single-A pitching to open last season, hitting .405/.461/.553 through 55 games to earn a call-up to Double-A at the age of 20.

    Drafted as a third baseman, Castellanos began making the transition to the outfield last season as he is blocked at the hot corner by Miguel Cabrera for the foreseeable future.

    He could play his way into an everyday role with a strong start to the season, and at the very least could find himself in a platoon with Andy Dirks in left field. He does need more seasoning in the minors though with just 322 at-bats above Single-A.

4. 3B Miguel Sano, Minnesota Twins

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    The No. 18 ranked prospect entering last season according to Baseball America, Sano was terrific in his first action above the Rookie League.

    He hit .258 BA, 28 HR, 100 RBI and displayed terrific plate discipline with 80 walks for a .373 on-base percentage as a 19-year-old.

    He's the top third base prospect in the game today with Nick Castellanos moving to the outfield, but it will be at least a few more seasons before we see him in Minnesota as his defense is still a work in progress (42 errors in 2012) and he'll need to prove himself in the high minors.

3. CF Oscar Taveras, St. Louis Cardinals

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    Entering last season, Taveras was already very much on the top prospect radar after he hit .386 with a 1.028 OPS in 78 games at Single-A in 2011.

    However, he boosted his stock considerably this past season when he hit .321/.380/.572 as a 20-year-old in Double-A.

    He also saw a major spike in his power numbers, as he launched 23 home runs and added 37 doubles. If he puts up similar numbers to open this coming season, he could unseat John Jay in center field by midseason.

2. RF Wil Myers, Tampa Bay Rays

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    The Minor League Player of the Year last season, Myers had 37 home runs and 109 RBI as a 21-year-old between Double-A and Triple-A in 2012.

    Many were surprised when the Royals did not give him a September call-up, but even more people were surprised when Kansas City pulled the trigger on dealing him to the Rays in a package for pitchers James Shields and Wade Davis.

    It looks like he'll open the season in the minors, but he could be making a serious impact in the middle of the Rays lineup by midseason.

1. SS Jurickson Profar, Texas Rangers

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    The consensus top prospect in baseball, Profar played well enough as a 19-year-old in Double-A last year to earn a call-up in September.

    He homered in his first big-league at bat, and even made the postseason roster where he recorded a pinch-hit single in the team's wild card round loss.

    Blocked by Ian Kinsler and Elvis Andrus up the middle in Texas, he'll likely open the season in the minors, but it's only a matter of time before he plays his way into a starting spot with the Rangers.

    Whether due to injury or Kinsler moving positions, expect Profar to be an everyday player by the end of the upcoming season.