Every MLB Team's Top Prospect That It Can Build Around
Throughout history, each team in Major League Baseball has worked diligently to develop its top prospects. In some cases, prospects are players that the team can build around based on their skill sets and leadership abilities.
Now more than ever, because of financial limitations, MLB teams look for those special young stars that can be focal points in the team's future success.
Here is one prospect from each MLB team who can be the foundation to build upon for the future.
Arizona Diamondbacks: Tyler Skaggs
The Arizona Diamondbacks have a wealth of solid pitching prospects in their farm system, including Archie Bradley, David Holmberg and Zeke Spruill.
But the best of the bunch just could be 21-year-old southpaw Tyler Skaggs.
Ranked as the 10th-best overall prospect in baseball, according to Jonathan Mayo of MLB.com, Skaggs was outstanding at the Double-A and Triple-A levels last season, posting a 2.87 ERA and 1.22 WHIP over 22 starts.
He debuted at the major league level on Aug. 22, earning the victory over the Miami Marlins with 6.2 innings of two-run ball. Skaggs finished the season with a 5.83 ERA in six starts, but fatigue was likely a factor in the final weeks.
Skaggs has a fastball, curve and changeup that can all be plus pitches. He could very well front the Diamondbacks rotation and set an example as an anchor for the rest of the Arizona pitching staff in the future.
Atlanta Braves: J.R. Graham
Drafted out of Santa Clara University by the Atlanta Braves in 2011, prospect starting pitcher J.R. Graham has already wowed Braves officials with his rapid rise through the system.
Graham impressed right from the start, posting a 1.72 ERA and 1.13 WHIP in seven starts at the rookie league level in 2011.
He followed up last year by posting a combined 12-2 record, 2.80 ERA and 1.06 WHIP between Advanced Single-A and Double-A ball. Graham's fastball sits comfortably in the mid-90s with the ability to dial it up close to 100 mph. His arm strength on a somewhat smaller frame (6'0", 180 pounds) is a major plus.
It's not inconceivable that Graham could be seen in Atlanta sometime in 2013, and he clearly has the talent to be a top-shelf starter for the Braves for the foreseeable future.
Baltimore Orioles: Dylan Bundy
While Manny Machado might be considered by many to be the man whom the Baltimore Orioles could build around, he's no longer classified as a prospect due to his service time accumulated in the majors last year.
However, the Orioles have another youngster on whom to build their starting rotation around.
Dylan Bundy was drafted out of high school less than two years ago, yet he has already ascended to the majors and could be there to stay.
Bundy was outstanding in his first full season in the minors last year, using a stellar four-pitch repertoire to rocket through three levels. He posted a 2.08 ERA, 0.92 WHIP and 10.3 K/9 rate before his September promotion to the big club.
As the No. 2 ranked prospect in all of baseball, Bundy is without question an elite young starting pitcher with a high ceiling.
Boston Red Sox: Xander Bogaerts
After progressing at a normal pace for his two years in the Boston Red Sox organization, shortstop prospect Xander Bogaerts took a major step forward in 2012.
Bogaerts upped his game at two levels, hitting a combined with 20 home runs and 81 RBI between Advanced Single-A and Double-A ball last year. Showing solid power to all fields and better bat discipline, he has drawn comparisons to the last great Red Sox shortstop, Nomar Garciaparra.
With Stephen Drew signed to just a one-year deal, the Bogaerts era in Boston could begin full-time as early as next season.
Chicago Cubs: Jorge Soler
The Chicago Cubs have three players listed among the top 100 prospects in baseball, according to MLB.com. Outfielder Jorge Soler could be the one that eventually wows everyone.
Soler is already ranked the No. 42 prospect in baseball courtesy of an impressive first professional season outside of Cuba. He hit .299 with five home runs, 25 RBI, 12 stolen bases and only 19 strikeouts in 149 plate appearances.
At 6'3" and 205 pounds, Soler is likely to continue developing as a power hitter with solid plate discipline and plus speed. He is indeed a player to watch this season, and he could be patrolling the Cubs outfield as early as 2014.
Chicago White Sox: Courtney Hawkins
Chicago White Sox outfield prospect Courtney Hawkins might not have impressed his new bosses when he did a back flip on live television after being selected in the first round.
However, he certainly impressed with his play on the field during his first professional season.
Hawkins hit .284 with eight homers and 33 RBI across three levels last season, adding a powerful bat to help out Advanced Single-A Winston-Salem during the playoffs as well.
Hawkins has considerable raw power and a strong throwing arm that could see him switch to a corner outfield position by the time he reaches the majors. He is the best overall athlete in the White Sox system, and he could find himself in their outfield by 2015.
Cincinnati Reds: Billy Hamilton
The fastest man in baseball could be impacting his major league team sometime this season.
Billy Hamilton shattered the single-season record by registering 155 stolen bases last season. Along the way, he improved his plate discipline, drawing 86 walks against 113 strikeouts last season.
Hamilton has struggled thus far in spring training for the Cincinnati Reds, hitting just .111 with eight strikeouts in 18 at-bats. Reds manager Dusty Baker alluded to Hamilton's slow start, saying that Hamilton still needs to show he can get on base consistently in the majors.
Via Mark Sheldon of MLB.com:
"He [Hamilton] has no chance to do anything when he strikes out. Probably half of those have been looking. Anytime he puts it in play, there's a chance of something happening."
Still, when Hamilton does develop that ability, he certainly has the ability to be a game-changer at the top of the Reds lineup for years to come.
Cleveland Indians: Francisco Lindor
Cleveland Indians shortstop Asdrubal Cabrera was the subject of trade speculation over the offseason. While the Indians may have suffered his loss in the short-term, they have a shortstop-in-waiting for their future.
At just 19 years of age, Francisco Lindor has impressed just about everyone with his overall makeup. The No. 14 prospect in baseball is already well above-average defensively, has a cannon for an arm, soft hands and great range.
But Lindor is also showing he can be a force with the bat as well. He hit .257 with 61 walks and just 78 strikeouts in 567 plate appearances last season—not too shabby for the youngest player in the Midwest League.
Players to build around don't have to be the slugger who hits prodigious blasts, or the pitcher with a blazing fastball. A prospect just like Lindor can absolutely be that foundation the Indians can build upon.
Colorado Rockies: David Dahl
When the Colorado Rockies selected high school outfielder David Dahl with the 10th overall pick in last year's draft, they knew they were getting a toolsy player.
Dahl showed off every one of his tools in the short-season Pioneer League. He led the league with a .379 average, adding nine home runs and 57 RBI with a 1.048 OPS in just 67 games.
Dahl also stole 12 bases and registered just a 13.7 percent strikeout rate—indeed impressive for an 18-year-old.
Dahl is also already considered a plus-defender with a strong arm, giving him all the tools needed to be the player the Rockies can build a future around.
Detroit Tigers: Nick Castellanos
Detroit Tigers top hitting prospect Nick Castellanos transitioned from third base to right field last year at Double-A Erie, clearing an easier and quicker path to the majors.
With Miguel Cabrera now entrenched at the hot corner, the move certainly made sense. Castellanos is quickly proving that his bat belongs somewhere in the lineup.
He hit a robust .320 across two levels last season and thus far has impressed in spring training for the Tigers as well. Castellanos is hitting .400 with a homer and three RBI through Grapefruit League games completed on Sunday.
While the No. 21 prospect in baseball won't be starting the season in Detroit, the 21-year-old will be a fixture in the Tigers lineup possibly as early as sometime next season. With a bat that continues raking, Castellanos will complement both Cabrera and Prince Fielder, and he will someday be their heir apparent as the focal point of the offense.
Houston Astros: Jonathan Singleton
The incredibly stupid mistake by Houston Astros first base prospect Jonathan Singleton will slow down his ascent to the majors, but it doesn't dim the fact that he is an offensive juggernaut who can be a building block.
Singleton was banned for 50 games over the offseason for testing positive for marijuana, delaying the start of his 2013 season.
He hit .284 with 21 HR and 79 RBI for Double-A Corpus Christi last season and would have likely started this year at Triple-A.
Singleton already has plus power along with a solid eye at the plate, posting a .396 on-base percentage. If he can get past his drug suspension, he could easily be contributing to the Astros offense in 2014.
Kansas City Royals: Kyle Zimmer
After posting a 3-3 with a 2.04 ERA in nine starts at Rookie League Surprise and Class A Kane County, Kansas City Royals 2012 first-round draft pick Kyle Zimmer underwent elbow surgery.
However, it was a minor procedure to remove bone chips and not the dreaded elbow ligament replacement surgery named after a certain major league pitcher.
Zimmer is healthy and will likely begin the season at Advanced Single-A Wilmington. But he's already impressed Kansas City with an outstanding repertoire, smooth, repeatable delivery and ability to throw strikes.
Considering the Royals' relatively short-term investment in their current major league pitchers, Zimmer certainly projects to be a major part of the future rotation, possibly as early as 2014.
Read more here: http://www.kansascity.com/2012/08/24/3777358/royalss-top-2012-pick-pitcher.html#storylink=cpy
Los Angeles Angels: C.J. Cron
There is an awful lot to like about Los Angeles Angels first base prospect C.J. Cron.
The 23-year-old hit .293 with 27 homers and 123 RBI for the Advanced Single-A Inland Empire 66ers last season. While his defense and speed are not considered pluses, the bat more than makes up for it.
Cron's path to the majors is blocked by the presence of Albert Pujols, but there's no reason he couldn't become a Billy Butler clone for the Angels in the future.
Los Angeles Dodgers: Yasiel Puig
Cuban outfielder Yasiel Puig is expected to be an impact bat. The Los Angeles Dodgers wouldn't have invested seven years and $42 million otherwise.
In just 23 professional games last season, Puig quickly showed why the Dodgers felt inclined to invest eight figures in the Cuban defector. He hit .354 with five home runs and 15 RBI in those 23 games.
Invited to major league camp this spring, Puig is showing off the tremendous skills once again. On Sunday, pinch-hitting for Matt Kemp in the bottom of the seventh inning, he hit a towering three-run home run, boosting his spring average to .391 with five RBI.
At this rate, Puig could be patrolling the outfield alongside Kemp in the not-so-distant future.
Miami Marlins: Christian Yelich
In the very near future, the Miami Marlins could have one of the most potent outfield tandems in baseball with slugger Giancarlo Stanton and prospect Christian Yelich.
Yelich certainly didn't dull expectations last year, hitting a robust .330 with a .404 on-base percentage for Jupiter in the Florida State League. He also stole 20 bases and is considered a plus defender with a solid arm.
At just 21 years of age, Yelich could certainly help give the Marlins an outfield that would be the envy of the league in the near future.
With his 1-for-2 effort on Sunday afternoon against the New York Mets in Grapefruit League play, Yelich is now hitting .421 in early spring action.
Milwaukee Brewers: None
The Milwaukee Brewers have amassed quite a few prospects in recent years, but none of them would be considered players to build a team around at this point.
However, starting pitching prospect Wily Peralta could well become an anchor in the Brewers' starting rotation.
Peralta made his major league debut last season, posting a 2.48 ERA in six appearances, five of them starts. He features a heavy, late-sinking fastball, an outstanding slider and a changeup that could be a plus pitch as he features it more in his arsenal.
Peralta is battling for the No. 5 job in the starting rotation, throwing two scoreless innings in his first appearance of the spring.
Minnesota Twins: Miguel Sano
In terms of pure power, Minnesota Twins prospect Miguel Sano is the real deal.
At just 19 years of age last season in Single-A ball, Sano hit 28 home runs with 100 RBI. While hitting just .258, he also walked 80 times for a .373 on-base percentage as well.
Sano has the ability to hit the ball out of any park to all fields. Defensively, he's clearly a work in progress, committing a whopping 42 errors at third base. But the Twins are counting on the bat, and considering his youth, they will definitely take their time to allow Sano to continue developing with the glove.
New York Mets: Travis d'Arnaud
Catching prospect Travis d'Arnaud instantly became the top prospect for the New York Mets, and for good reason.
D'Arnaud was the prospect the Mets coveted when the Toronto Blue Jays came calling for starting pitcher R.A. Dickey. D'Arnaud was tearing up Triple-A pitching last year with a .333 average, 16 homers and 52 RBI before a knee injury cut short his season.
He is already hitting .429 in six Grapefruit League games thus far and could very well be behind the plate full-time for the Mets at some point this season.
New York Yankees: None
The New York Yankees have several prospects that could have an impact at the major league level, but not the talent that would classify them as building blocks.
One particular prospect, however, is starting to open up eyes with his play.
Outfielder Tyler Austin led all Yankees minor league hitters with a .322 batting average and .559 slugging percentage last year. He added 17 homers and 80 RBI, along with a .960 OPS as well.
Austin also moved from the infield to right field last season, likely helping his chances of reaching the majors that much quicker.
Oakland Athletics: Addison Russell
Taken with the 11th overall pick in last year's draft, shortstop Addison Russell is already the top-ranked prospect in the Oakland A's organization, and for good reason.
He put up the best offensive numbers of any position player drafted last year, hitting .369 and climbing all the way to the Single-A Midwest League.
Russell could develop some power along the way and already possesses terrific bat speed and good plate discipline for a 19-year-old. He also stole 16 bases and put up a better-than-expected .951 fielding percentage.
Russell has yet to play a full professional season, but given what he delivered last year, his ascent to the majors may not be all that far away.
Philadelphia Phillies: Darin Ruf
Outfield prospect Darin Ruf is definitely the long shot on this list to become a game-changer. However, he's bucked the odds so far.
Definitely one of the older prospects at 26, Ruf is only considered the 16th-best prospect in the Phillies organization. But he earned a promotion last year after hitting .317 with 38 home runs at Double-A Reading.
Ruf added three home runs following last year's call-up in September for the Phillies. He has the power to hit to all fields and solid plate discipline as well.
Considering he continues to defy the odds, I wouldn't be at all surprised to see Ruf continue doing just that in the majors.
Pittsburgh Pirates: Gerrit Cole
Thus far in his brief professional career, Gerrit Cole has given no indication that he isn't capable of being an anchor in the starting rotation for the Pittsburgh Pirates in the near future.
Cole, taken first overall in the 2011 MLB draft, delivered a 2.80 ERA and 1.20 WHIP in 26 starts across three levels last season.
His upper-90s fastball and slider are already plus pitches, and his curve and changeup aren't that far behind. Cole's major league career could begin as early as this season, and he could take over at the top of the Pirates rotation in short order.
San Diego Padres: Jedd Gyorko
The San Diego Padres thought so much of top hitting prospect Jedd Gyorko that they thought nothing of switching him to second base last season.
With Chase Headley posting a breakout season last year, Gyorko's best path to the majors will come through second. Considering his ability to hit, it's a sound decision.
Gyorko has already impressed this spring, hitting a grand slam home run in his first at-bat of the spring. He hit .311 with 30 home runs and 100 RBI last season between Double-A and Triple-A ball as well.
Gyorko and Headley could give the Padres a potent infield tandem that could seriously rake with the fences pulled in at Petco Park.
San Francisco Giants: Gary Brown
The future in the outfield is definitely very bright for the San Francisco Giants.
Top hitting prospect Gary Brown had just an OK season after a terrific 2011 campaign with Advanced Single-A San Jose. He hit .279 with seven home runs and 42 RBI last year at Double-A Richmond.
Brown's speed is a definite plus, along with his ability to defend in center.
With Angel Pagan signed for the next four seasons, Brown may have more of a chance breaking through in left field. But the skills are there nonetheless, and Brown could be in the Bay Area later this season.
Seattle Mariners: Danny Hultzen
Considering what he's already done in his brief professional career, a debut in the 2013 season for the Seattle Mariners may be next on Danny Hultzen's bucket list.
Hultzen, selected with the second overall pick in the 2011 MLB draft, was outstanding early last year, posting an outstanding 1.19 ERA in 13 starts for Double-A Jackson. His Triple-A experience was not nearly as stellar, however, as he had a 5.92 ERA in 12 starts and struggled with his command.
Nonetheless, Hultzen is looked upon as a top-shelf rotation guy, and along with Taijuan Walker, he gives the Mariners all kinds of hope for the future.
Thus far in spring training, Hultzen has been nearly flawless, pitching three scoreless innings while allowing just one hit and striking out six.
St. Louis Cardinals: Oscar Taveras
There are many in baseball who believe that St. Louis Cardinals outfield prospect Oscar Taveras has the ability to become an All-Star-caliber player, similar to Cardinals former prospects Albert Pujols and Yadier Molina.
Taveras was outstanding at the Double-A level last season, hitting .321 with 23 homers, 94 RBI, 37 doubles and a .953 OPS.
He is only 20 years old and is already the No. 3 prospect in all of baseball. Jon Jay is the current center fielder in St. Louis, but in all fairness, Jay doesn't hold a candle to Taveras.
At some point in 2013, manager Mike Matheny will work to find a way to get Taveras' bat in his lineup.
Tampa Bay Rays: Wil Myers
There was a very good reason that Tampa Bay Rays vice president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman was willing to trade pitchers James Shields and Wade Davis.
In return, he got a hitting prospect with the potential to be a building block.
Wil Myers has that kind of cache after the production he delivered last season. Myers hit .314 with 37 HR and 109 RBI and a .987 OPS at Double-A and Triple-A for the Kansas City Royals.
He could potentially join third baseman Evan Longoria to form a ferocious hitting tandem for many years in Tampa Bay. While the Rays will be more apt to wait on Myers' debut because of service time considerations for future compensation, they may not in a position to wait later this season.
Texas Rangers: Jurickson Profar
Having just turned 20 years old in February, infielder Jurickson Profar could enjoy a long and fruitful career with the Texas Rangers.
It's now just a matter of where.
Profar, the top prospect in all of baseball, is without a position. Shortstop Elvis Andrus and second baseman Ian Kinsler are firmly implanted at present, and unless general manager Jon Daniels has something up his sleeve, Profar could be starting his season at Triple-A.
Don't expect that to last long.
Toronto Blue Jays: Aaron Sanchez
The Toronto Blue Jays traded away several top prospects in order to completely revamp their roster for the 2013 season.
However, top pitching prospect Aaron Sanchez was definitely not going to be a part of any outgoing package.
Sanchez posted an 8-5 record and 2.49 ERA last year at Class-A Lansing, striking out 97 batters in 90.1 innings.
He features a fastball-curve combination that is believed to be among the best of any pitching prospect in could, and his ability to command four pitches at the age of 20 leads many scouts to think he can be a successful anchor in the starting rotation for the Blue Jays in the near future.
Washington Nationals: Anthony Rendon
Ankle injuries have severely curtailed his development, but it hasn't stopped Washington Nationals third base prospect Anthony Rendon from ascending to the top of the team's prospect charts.
Rendon, selected with the sixth overall pick in the 2011 MLB draft, suffered another ankle injury that sidelined him for three months in his first full professional season.
With Ryan Zimmerman now inked long-term to continue at the hot corner for the Nationals, the team will have to decide where Rendon will play in the future.
Rendon projects to hit for both average and power, and if he can manage to stay healthy and show off that potential for a full season, the Nationals will do what it takes to find a new position for him.
Doug Mead is a featured columnist with Bleacher Report. His work has been featured on the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, SF Gate, CBS Sports, the Los Angeles Times and the Houston Chronicle.