Grading Top 25 MLB Prospects' Performance Midway Through Spring Training

Joel Reuter@JoelReuterBRFeatured ColumnistMarch 12, 2013

Grading Top 25 MLB Prospects' Performance Midway Through Spring Training

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    One of the best parts of spring training is that it gives fans a chance to see some of the team's top prospects in action against big league talent.

    For most, it is simply a matter of getting experience, as they have no real shot of breaking camp with the team, but it is fun to get a glimpse of the future nonetheless.

    Here is a look at how the Top 25 prospects in this year's Baseball America Top 100 have fared so far this spring, as we're at roughly the midway point of the preseason.

Top 25 Prospects Not in Big League Camp

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    No. 9: 3B Miguel Sano, Minnesota Twins

    The 19-year-old Sano was among the youngest players in full-season Single-A ball last year, and he more than held his own with a .258/.373/.521 slash line and 28 home runs in 457 at-bats.

    No. 10: CF Byron Buxton, Minnesota Twins

    Viewed by many as the top overall talent in last year's draft, Buxton was taken with the No. 2 overall pick. He signed in time to play 48 games in the rookie league, hitting .248/.344/.448 in 165 at-bats with five home runs and 11 steals.

    No. 13: SS Carlos Correa, Houston Astros

    Taken one spot ahead of Buxton with the No. 1 overall pick by the rebuilding Astros, Correa's raw tools have drawn comparisons to Alex Rodriguez, and he'll likely be brought along slowly in Houston.

    No. 24: SP Kyle Zimmer, Kansas City Royals

    Relatively new to pitching, compared to most college arms who go in the first round, Zimmer is surprisingly polished and could move quickly after being taken with the No. 5 overall pick last June. He had a 2.04 ERA and 42 strikeouts in 39.2 innings after signing.

No. 25: SP Archie Bradley, Arizona Diamondbacks

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    Spring Stats: 1 G, 1 IP, 2 H, 1 ER, 0 BB, 2 K

    The No. 7 pick in the 2011 draft, Archie Bradley was a two-sport star at Broken Arrow High School in Oklahoma and had a scholarship offer to play quarterback at Oklahoma University.

    The 20-year-old went 12-6 with a 3.84 ERA and 152 strikeouts in 136 innings of work last season at the Single-A level. He has the stuff to front the Diamondbacks staff once he arrives, but he's still a ways off.

    Grade: C

No. 23: C Travis D'Arnaud, New York Mets

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    Spring Stats: 6-for-20, 2 2B, 2 RBI, 4 R

    Had it not been for a torn PCL, Travis D'Arnaud likely would have made his big league debut last season. He was hitting .333 with 16 home runs and 52 RBI in 67 Triple-A games at the time of the injury.

    The 24-year-old was dealt to the Mets in the R.A. Dickey deal, and John Buck will simply be keeping the position warm for him until he's ready, presumably around midseason.

    Grade: B

No. 22: 1B/3B Mike Olt, Texas Rangers

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    Spring Stats: 3-for-24, 1 2B, 1 HR, 3 RBI, 1 R

    After a quiet first two pro seasons, Mike Olt broke out in 2012 with a .288/.398/.579 line and 28 home runs in a full season at Double-A last year.

    He was in line to see everyday at-bats at DH before the team signed Lance Berkman. That appears to have been a wise move, as the 24-year-old has struggled to get things going this spring.

    Grade: F

No. 21: LF Nick Castellanos, Detroit Tigers

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    Spring Stats: 8-for-19, 1 2B, 1 HR, 5 RBI, 5 R

    A supplemental-round pick in 2010, Nick Castellanos played all of last season at the age of 20 and put up a .320/.365/.451 line between High Single-A and Double-A.

    He had 10 home runs last season, and while he doesn't project to have premier power, he could still improve on that number. He's the long-term answer in left field for the Tigers, and if Andy Dirks struggles to lock down the job this season, he could get a shot in the second half.

    Grade: B+

No. 20: CF Billy Hamilton, Cincinnati Reds

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    Spring Stats: 2-for-18, 2 BB, 8 K, 2 R, 2 SB

    After putting on an absolute clinic on his way to a record 155 steals in the minors last season, some hoped the Reds would turn center field duties over to Billy Hamilton this season. Instead, the team acquired Shin-Soo Choo as a stopgap option.

    His .311/.410/.420 line last season shows he has the potential to be more than just a speedster, but he's played just 50 games above Single-A, and his performance this spring has only further proven he needs more seasoning.

    Grade: D-

No. 19: SP Jameson Taillon, Pittsburgh Pirates

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    Spring Stats: 1 G, 2 IP, 1 H, 0 ER, 1 BB, 3 K

    Though he gets overshadowed by Gerrit Cole sometimes, Taillon is a front-line starting pitching prospect in his own right and would be a future staff ace for a number of teams.

    The 21-year-old suited up for Team Canada in the World Baseball Classic and got the ball in the team's game against the United States. Though the U.S. rallied late, Taillon turned in a solid outing, going four innings and allowing four hits and one earned run while striking out three.

    Grade: B+ 

No. 18: SP Taijuan Walker, Seattle Mariners

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    Spring Stats: 4 G, 7 IP, 7 H, 4 ER, 5 BB, 4 K

    Though his numbers weren't terrific last year, as he went 7-10 with a 4.69 ERA in 25 starts, Taijuan Walker remains an incredibly high upside prospect who's still a relatively raw talent.

    The fact that he put those numbers up while pitching in Double-A as a 19-year-old makes them significantly more impressive. While he may need another full season in the minors, he projects to be the team's No. 2 starter long-term behind Felix Hernandez.

    Grade: D

No. 17: C Mike Zunino, Seattle Mariners

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    Spring Stats: 4-for-18, 1 2B, 1 HR, 2 RBI, 5 R

    Franchise catchers don't come along every year, so the Mariners jumped at the chance to select Mike Zunino with the No. 3 overall pick in the draft.

    He signed in time to play 44 games, hitting .360/.447/.689 with 13 home runs and 43 RBI over just 161 at-bats while reaching Double-A. He could find himself in an everyday role by midseason if all goes according to plan.

    Grade: C

No. 16: SS Javier Baez, Chicago Cubs

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    Spring Stats: 9-for-29, 1 2B, 2 HR, 6 RBI, 4 R

    The Cubs took Javier Baez ninth overall in the 2011 draft—despite already having Starlin Castro at the position long-term—as he represented the best available talent.

    The 20-year-old has some of the best bat speed in all of minor league baseball, and after hitting .294/.346/.543 with 16 home runs and 24 steals in his first full pro season last year, he could be on the fast track.

    Grade: B+

No. 15: CF Christian Yelich, Miami Marlins

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    Spring Stats: 12-for-32, 3 2B, 1 3B, 3 HR, 11 RBI, 10 R

    The Marlins' first-round pick in 2010, Christian Yelich has hit .322/.395/.497 with 27 home runs and 53 steals in 909 minor league at-bats and is a true five-tool talent.

    It may be a long season in Miami this year, but a potential future outfield of Yelich, Giancarlo Stanton and Jake Marisnick gives fans a reason for hope moving forward.

    Grade: A+

No. 14: SP Trevor Bauer, Cleveland Indians

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    Spring Stats: 3 G, 7 IP, 4 H, 2 ER, 1 BB, 5 K

    Acquired in a three-team deal this winter with the Arizona Diamondbacks and Cincinnati Reds, Trevor Bauer clashed with the Arizona organization over an unwillingness to make adjustments, but he remains an elite talent and potential front-line starter.

    After naming Zach McAllister their No. 4 starter, it will come down to Daisuke Matsuzaka, Scott Kazmir, Carlos Carrasco or Bauer for the No. 5 spot. Bauer has pitched well, so far.

    Grade: B+

No. 12: SP Tyler Skaggs, Arizona Diamondbacks

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    Spring Stats: 3 G, 6.1 IP, 11 H, 9 ER, 4 BB, 3 K

    Part of the reason the Diamondbacks were comfortable trading Trevor Bauer this offseason was because of the continued development of Tyler Skaggs. He went 9-6 with a 2.87 ERA between Double-A and Triple-A last year.

    The 21-year-old entered the spring as the front-runner to land the No. 5 starter job, but he may have a hard time holding off Patrick Corbin and Josh Collmenter if he continues to struggle.

    Grade: F

No. 11: SP Zack Wheeler, New York Mets

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    Spring Stats: 1 G, 2 IP, 1 H, 1 BB, 2 K

    After watching Matt Harvey turn in a terrific debut season last year, the New York Mets will be hoping for the same if and when Zack Wheeler makes his debut this season.

    A strained oblique sidelined Wheeler on February 27, and he was one of 10 players optioned to minor league camp on Sunday.

    Grade: Incomplete

No. 8: SS Xander Bogaerts, Boston Red Sox

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    Spring Stats: 1-for-2, 1 RBI

    Xander Bogaerts has been away from Boston Red Sox camp for much of the spring while playing for Team Netherlands in the World Baseball Classic. He's gone 3-for-16 and helped the team to the semifinals.

    The 20-year-old hit .307/.373/.523 with 20 home runs between High Single-A and Double-A last year. A strong full season in the high minors could set him up to be the team's starting shortstop in 2014.

    Grade: B

No. 7: SP Gerrit Cole, Pittsburgh Pirates

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    Spring Stats: 2 G, 6 IP, 3 H, 3 ER, 2 BB, 3 K

    While he has no real shot at winning the No. 5 starter spot, Gerrit Cole has looked sharp this spring and is on the cusp of making an impact at the big league level.

    He allowed just two hits in four innings during his last outing, surrendering a two-run home run to Ryan Flaherty. He also fanned six over three innings of work in an exhibition against Team Spain earlier in the spring.

    Grade: B+

No. 6: SP Shelby Miller, St. Louis Cardinals

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    Spring Stats: 2 G, 5 IP, 4 H, 3 ER, 1 BB, 4 K

    Shelby Miller has been one of the Cardinals' top prospects since being taken in the first round of the 2009 draft, and he made his big league debut last season with a 1.32 ERA and 16 strikeouts in 13.2 innings of work.

    With Kyle Lohse gone in free agency and Chris Carpenter shelved indefinitely, the No. 5 spot in the team's rotation is wide open, and Miller appears to be the front-runner as of now.

    Grade: B

No. 5: SP Jose Fernandez, Miami Marlins

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    Spring Stats: 1 G, 2 IP, 1 H, 0 ER, 0 BB, 2 K

    The No. 14 pick in the 2011 draft, Jose Fernandez shot up prospect rankings with a fantastic first full pro season, going 14-1 with a 1.75 ERA and 10.6 K/9 between Single-A and High Single-A.

    The 20-year-old is still at least a year off, but he turned in a solid outing in his spring debut on Saturday and is a big part of what appears to be a bright future in Miami.

    Grade: B

No. 4: RF Wil Myers, Tampa Bay Rays

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    Spring Stats: 7-for-25, 2 2B, 1 3B, 1 RBI, 3 R

    It cost them workhorse starter James Shields, but the Tampa Bay Rays landed one of the game's top hitting prospects in Wil Myers, and he could be serving in a major run-production role by midseason.

    The Minor League Player of the Year last season, Myers has yet to make his major league debut. He still has some holes in his swing after striking out 140 times last season, but the potential for big things is certainly there.

    Grade: B-

No. 3: CF Oscar Taveras, St. Louis Cardinals

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    Spring Stats: 10-for-35, 3 2B, 2 HR, 9 RBI, 5 R

    After a terrific season in 2011, Oscar Taveras took his game to another level in his first season in Double-A, hitting .321/.380/.572 with 23 home runs and 94 RBI.

    The St. Louis Cardinals will open the season with an outfield of Matt Holliday, Jon Jay and Carlos Beltran, but Taveras could be called upon if one of those guys goes down with an injury. If nothing else, he's in line to replace Beltran when he hits free agency next offseason.

    Grade: B+

No. 2: SP Dylan Bundy, Baltimore Orioles

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    Spring Stats: 3 G, 5 IP, 4 H, 0 ER, 4 BB, 4 K

    After opening last season in Single-A, Dylan Bundy rocketed through the minors in his first pro season and wound up making a pair of appearances in Baltimore down the stretch.

    The 20-year-old has as high a ceiling as any pitcher in the game, and while he's likely to open the season in the minors, he may very well be the first starter called upon if the rotation needs reinforcement.

    Grade: B+

No. 1: SS Jurickson Profar, Texas Rangers

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    Spring Stats: 8-for-36, 1 2B, 1 3B, 5 RBI, 5 R

    The top prospect in baseball, Jurickson Profar opted against playing for the Netherlands in the World Baseball Classic in an effort to improve his chances of breaking camp with the Texas Rangers.

    The odds were already stacked against him to begin with, seeing as he doesn't have a clear-cut path to everyday at-bats. His middling numbers this spring likely clinched it for him starting the season in Triple-A.

    Grade: C-