Predictions for MLB's Top 10 Prospects in 2013
If there is one thing we know about Major League Baseball, it is that trying to predict what will happen with teams and individual players on a year-to-year basis is a fool's errand. That's doubly true when talking about prospects.
One big reason that the minor leagues and prospects have exploded in popularity over the last decade—aside from being a way to see the next great wave of players at a much cheaper price than when they make it to the big leagues—is the possibility of what could be.
At this point in spring training, all of the big talent-evaluating sources have unveiled their Top 100 Prospect lists for the 2013 season. Fans and analysts have devoured that information, trying to determine how long it will be before the hottest prospects are in the big leagues.
But all of those evaluations describe what a prospect did last year. It is time to start looking ahead at what the cream of the prospect crop are going to do as they make their way closer to the big leagues in 2013.
Some of the players on this list will be in the big leagues very soon, while others are going to take at least another year before getting the call to The Show, but all of them have the talent to be among the best players in the game.
Note: All stats courtesy of MiLB.com unless otherwise noted. Prospect rankings are my own personal list.
Names to Watch
These are five prospects who will make an impact in the big leagues this season, not necessarily the next five players on my rankings.
Shelby Miller, SP, St. Louis Cardinals
27 G, 11-10, 136.2 IP, 4.74 ERA, 138 H, 72 ER, 24 HR, 50 BB, 160 K (Triple-A)
Miller has been at the top of the Cardinals' prospect list for three years before Oscar Taveras took the throne this year. The big right-hander is competing for a spot in the Cardinals rotation this spring. As long as he doesn't completely bomb the last two weeks, he will be in St. Louis very soon.
Travis d'Arnaud, C, New York Mets
67 G, .333/.380/.595, 93 H, 21 2B, 2 3B, 16 HR, 52 RBI, 19 BB, 59 K (Triple-A)
D'Arnaud was traded from Toronto in the R.A. Dickey deal. The Mets plan to send the star catcher to Triple-A (h/t Marc Carig of New York Newsday), but he really just needs to prove he can stay healthy before getting the call to Queens.
Been told that Mets still plan to have d'Arnaud begin the season in Triple-A -- same as when camp began.— Marc Carig (@MarcCarig) March 18, 2013
Tyler Skaggs, SP, Arizona Diamondbacks
13 GS, 5-4, 69.2 IP, 2.84 ERA, 63 H, 22 ER, 8 HR, 21 BB, 71 K (Double-A)
9 GS, 4-2, 52.2 IP, 2.91 ERA, 49 H, 17 ER, 4 HR, 16 BB, 45 K (Triple-A)
6 GS, 1-3, 29.1 IP, 5.83 ERA, 30 H, 19 ER, 6 HR, 13 BB, 21 K (MLB)
Skaggs was competing for the fifth spot in the Diamondbacks rotation this spring, but he will start the season in Triple-A. The lefty has a good fastball-curveball combination with an improving changeup. He has the upside of a No. 2 starter.
Mike Zunino, C, Seattle Mariners
29 G, .373/.474/.736, 41 H, 10 2B, 10 HR, 35 RBI, 18 BB, 26 K (High-A)
15 G, .333/.386/.588, 17 H, 4 2B, 3 HR, 8 RBI, 5 BB, 7 K (Double-A)
Zunino came out of Florida last season as a polished college catcher who could move quickly. He shined in a 44-game audition in 2012. The Mariners are desperate to find an everyday starting catcher—Jesus Montero still isn't good—so don't be shocked if Zunino gets the call around the All-Star break.
Trevor Bauer, SP, Cleveland Indians
8 GS, 7-1, 48.1 IP, 1.68 ERA, 33 H, 9 ER, 1 HR, 26 BB, 60 K (Double-A)
14 GS, 5-1, 82.0 IP, 2.85 ERA, 74 H, 26 ER, 8 HR, 35 BB, 97 K (Triple-A)
4 GS, 1-2, 16.1 IP, 6.06 ERA, 14 H, 11 ER, 2 HR, 13 BB, 17 K (MLB)
Despite what Miguel Montero might think, Bauer still has the talent to make an impact in the big leagues. The Indians are desperate for starting pitching, with Bauer being ready to step in right away. It would not be a shock if he won the last starting job out of spring training. It would also not be a shock if the team wanted him to start the season in Triple-A to work on his command.
No. 10: Francisco Lindor, SS, Cleveland Indians
122 G, .257/.352/.355, 126 H, 24 2B, 3 3B, 6 HR, 42 RBI, 61 BB, 78 K, 27 SB (Low-A)
A 2011 draftee, Lindor excelled after Cleveland gave him an aggressive assignment to Low-A Lake County as an 18-year-old. In the Midwest League, one of the worst offensive leagues in baseball, he hit .285/.369/.410 before the All-Star break.
A second-half slump, likely due to the grind of his first full season in pro baseball, dragged Lindor's overall numbers down, but he was easily one of the best talents in Low-A and showed all the tools that made him one of the most sought-after position players in his draft.
Offensively, Lindor displays an advanced approach at the plate. He is patient and knows how to work counts, rarely getting fooled on pitches that most hitters his age would have no idea what to do with. He has a short, compact swing that generates plenty of line drives to the gap.
Because of his swing and small stature, Lindor will never have much home run power. He will likely top out around 10-12 home runs per season with a lot of doubles. He doesn't have great speed, relying on his instincts to steal bases.
Defense is where Lindor really makes his money. He is a great defender with a plus arm, tremendous range and instincts for a shortstop. A big part of playing the position is always putting yourself in spots where the ball will be hit, and few are better than Lindor.
Predictions for 2013
120 G, .267/.366/.398, 134 H, 29 2B, 4 3B, 8 HR, 51 RBI, 59 BB, 63 K (High-A)
The Indians made the wise decision to push Lindor hard last season—that will pay huge dividends this season. Now he knows what to expect from a long year, how to prepare for it and condition for August and September.
This season will be about small steps forward. At 19, Lindor is not going to dramatically lower his stock unless he completely falls off a cliff—and there is no reason to think that is going to happen.
Maintaining the high level of play he showed in the first half of the season at Lake County last year for six months will be what the Indians are looking for. He could get bumped up to Double-A if the team likes what it sees, but time is on Lindor's side.
He won't end up in that rarefied air of prospects because his offensive profile is somewhat limited, but a plus defensive shortstop who can get on base and hit for average is a luxury very few teams have in their system.
No. 9: Zack Wheeler, SP, New York Mets
19 GS, 10-6, 116.0 IP, 3.26 ERA, 92 H, 42 ER, 2 HR, 43 BB, 117 K (Double-A)
6 GS, 2-2, 33.0 IP, 3.27 ERA, 23 H, 12 ER, 2 HR, 16 BB, 31 K (Triple-A)
In what could end up being one of the great steals in recent trade history, the Mets gave up two months of Carlos Beltran to acquire the 22-year-old Wheeler at the deadline in 2011. Even though the Giants have two championships in the last three years to hang their hat on, the Mets clearly got the better of this deal.
One of the reasons the Mets were able to get Wheeler in a one-for-one trade like that is because, at the time, he was much more thrower than pitcher.
Fast forward 20 months: Wheeler has turned into one of the best right-handed pitching prospects in baseball. He works with a power fastball-curveball combination that generates a ton of whiffs. He also throws a changeup, though it is still a fringy pitch because there isn't enough separation between it and his fastball.
Wheeler's command is spotty right now, but he does control all of his pitches well and has a frame built for 200 innings every season.
Predictions for 2013
13 GS, 5-3, 70.0 IP, 3.31 ERA, 58 H, 4 HR, 24 BB, 66 K (Triple-A)
16 GS, 4-7, 86 IP, 4.10 ERA, 85 H, 6 HR, 26 BB, 75 K (MLB)
The Mets made the decision to send Wheeler to minor league camp on March 10 with the idea that he will start the season at Triple-A Las Vegas.
But that shouldn't be an indictment on Wheeler's skills; he is very close to being ready and will be in New York soon.
It would not be a stretch to see the Mets bring him up in June and pair him with Matt Harvey, whose electric debut last year gives this franchise one of the best young pitching duos to build around.
Keep an eye on Wheeler's stats in Las Vegas. The Pacific Coast League is notorious for being one of the best hitting environments in the minors, with Vegas inflating offensive numbers to the point where teams could avoid sending their top pitchers there for fear of getting lit up.
No. 8: Xander Bogaerts, SS, Boston Red Sox
104 G, .302/.378/.505, 116 H, 27 2B, 3 3B, 15 HR, 64 RBI, 43 BB, 85 K, 4 SB (High-A)
23 G, .326/.351/.598, 30 H, 10 2B, 5 HR, 17 RBI, 1 BB, 21 K, 1 SB (Double-A)
Bogaerts continues to rake with the bat wherever the Red Sox send him. As a 19-year-old last season, he blasted 20 home runs in 127 games across two levels and hit .307 just for good measure.
Boasting one of the prettiest swings in the minors, Bogaerts generates his power from lightning-quick bat speed, explosive wrists and tremendous bat control that allows him to barrel the ball regularly.
He is prone to chasing pitches out of the zone, so his average is likely to suffer the higher he moves until he learns to lay off bad balls.
Where Bogaerts continues to impress is on defense. He will never boast a great glove at shortstop, but there is a much better chance that he stays there now than there was a year ago. A potential .300 hitter with 30 home runs and even average defense at shortstop is an MVP candidate.
Predictions for 2013
110 G, .296/.341/.525, 112 H, 21 2B, 3 3B, 22 HR, 73 RBI, 39 BB, 83 K (Double-A)
15 G, .275/.321/.480, 16 H, 4 2B, 1 3B, 2 HR, 6 RBI, 2 BB, 16 K (Triple-A)
Bogaerts got a taste of Double-A Portland last season. He will get the full experience in 2013.
His batting average and on-base percentage will likely take a hit in 2013 as he works on his plate discipline against more advanced pitching than he is used to seeing. Because he is such a naturally gifted hitter, it shouldn't take long for him to get his footing.
The Red Sox are not likely to give Bogaerts a shot in the big leagues this year—at just 20 years old, they are under no real obligation to do so—but he could end up forcing their hand if he continues to rake.
It will also be interesting to see how Bogaerts does at shortstop this season. His bat is special for virtually any position, but it is because he has a better-than-expected chance to remain up the middle that he is an elite prospect.
No. 7: Taijuan Walker, SP, Seattle Mariners
25 GS, 7-10, 126.2 IP, 4.69 ERA, 124 H, 66 ER, 12 HR, 50 BB, 118 K (Double-A)
If you ever needed a reason not to completely trust results in the minor leagues when it comes to evaluating prospects, look no further than the 20-year-old Taijuan Walker.
The Mariners' young right-hander struggled in his first crack at Double-A—mostly in the second half, when he posted a 5.43 ERA and allowed nine of his 12 home runs. His stuff remains electric, and more importantly, he started the season as the youngest player in the Southern League by nearly a full year (h/t Baseball America).
Walker works with one of the best deliveries you will see. He is so smooth and fluid with his actions on the mound.
As far as stuff goes, Walker has a plus fastball that sits in the mid 90s. He also throws a changeup and curveball, but both pitches are far behind the fastball because he doesn't have a great feel for either one yet.
The changeup is very straight and hittable. His curveball tends to get loopy because he doesn't have great velocity on the pitch.
Considering his age and ability to at least hold his own at Double-A, Walker still has one of the highest ceilings in the minors. This could be the year where Walker takes the next step in his development and turns into one of the three or four best prospects in baseball.
Predictions for 2013
10 GS, 2-2, 58.0 IP, 3.95 ERA, 55 H, 5 HR, 23 BB, 59 K (Double-A)
16 GS, 7-4, 85.0 IP, 3.56 ERA, 74 H, 8 HR, 36 BB, 76 K (Triple-A)
Walker seems likely to return to Double-A Jackson. He had problems down the stretch last year that may have shown the Mariners he isn't quite ready to take the leap to Triple-A.
However, because he is so physically gifted and has incredible raw talent, Walker will not need a lot more grooming in Jackson before the Mariners give him a shot to join Danny Hultzen, James Paxton and Brandon Maurer in Tacoma.
Improved command and finding consistency with his off-speed pitches will be the biggest keys for Walker to succeed in 2013. If he fails in one of those areas, his ceiling might not look as high as it is right now.
No. 6: Jose Fernandez, SP, Miami Marlins
14 GS, 7-0, 79 IP, 1.59 ERA, 51 H, 14 ER, 2 HR, 18 BB, 99 K (Low-A)
11 GS, 7-1, 55.0 IP, 1.96 ERA, 38 H, 12 ER, 17 BB, 59 K (High-A)
Fernandez was also part of that 2011 draft class that is shaping up to be one of the most memorable in recent history—especially when it comes to pitching.
The No. 14 overall pick to the Marlins, Fernandez exceeded even the most optimistic expectations for him in 2012. His stats were incredible, especially for a 19-year-old pitching in A ball, but his arsenal was even better.
Fernandez has a plus fastball with natural movement that can touch the high 90s. He complements it with a hard, knockout curveball that falls off a table when it gets into the zone. What makes him so effective is his ability to command both pitches already, a rare trait for a pitcher out of high school.
His changeup will be the pitch he needs to focus on this season. It is the only thing standing between Fernandez and rock-solid No. 1-starter status in the future.
The Marlins haven't given their fans much reason to celebrate this offseason, but Fernandez is one of the pieces to the championship puzzle that Jeffrey Loria keeps talking about.
Predictions for 2013
16 GS, 7-4, 94 IP, 2.67 ERA, 79 H, 24 BB, 113 K (Double-A)
5 GS, 1-1, 25 IP, 3.30 ERA, 20 H, 6 BB, 22 K (Triple-A)
Fernandez could get to Miami this season, though there really is no need for the team to start his arbitration clock because we know how cheap the front office is and how bad the Marlins will be in 2013.
The most likely scenario for Fernandez will be to start the season in Double-A and play most of the season there. He is just 20 years old and has enough to work on in the minors that this can be an invaluable learning experience for him.
We saw how well Fernandez performed as an advanced pitcher in A ball last year. Now we will see how he handles himself moving up to take on advanced hitters in the Southern League.
Not that he is asking for the publicity, but Fernandez also has one of the best underdog stories. He was raised in Cuba and tried to escape four times (h/t MiLB.com) before finally making it to the United States.
On one escape attempt, Fernandez's mother fell out of the boat and he jumped out to rescue her. Facing hitters in a baseball game is a cakewalk compared to everything he went through to get drafted.
No. 5: Gerrit Cole, RHP, Pittsburgh Pirates
13 GS, 5-1, 67.0 IP, 2.55 ERA, 53 H, 19 ER, 5 HR, 21 BB, 69 K (High-A)
12 GS, 3-6, 59.0 IP, 2.90 ERA, 54 H, 19 ER, 2 HR, 23 BB, 60 K (Double-A)
1 GS, 1-0, 6.0 IP, 4.50 ERA, 6 H, 3 ER, 1 BB, 7 K (Triple-A)
The 22-year-old Cole was the top pick in the loaded 2012 draft and showed off all the skills that made him the best raw talent in that class, as well as some of the things that have held him back slightly.
At the top of his game, Cole can be unhittable. He has one of the best fastballs in the minors, an easy plus-plus pitch with movement. He does struggle at times to command it in the zone, allowing hitters to square it up more often than you would think.
In addition to the fastball, Cole's changeup is also one of the best in the minors. He has great arm speed on the pitch, and it has such late fade that hitters have no chance when they try to swing at it.
He also throws a curveball and slider, with the latter being the better weapon. It has such hard, late tilt that, when he is throwing it right, it becomes a swing-and-miss pitch. He tries to overthrow his breaking pitches, taking away from their effectiveness.
Built like a true workhorse at 6'4", 240 pounds, Cole has the upside of an ace and future Cy Young winner. He needs to focus on commanding all of his pitches in the zone, but he will be in Pittsburgh very soon.
Predictions for 2013
15 GS, 5-4, 86 IP, 3.12 ERA, 77 H, 5 HR, 24 BB, 92 K (Triple-A)
10 GS, 2-2, 60 IP, 3.87 ERA, 62 H, 6 HR, 19 BB, 53 K (MLB)
Like Dylan Bundy (more on him in a bit), Cole could start the season in the big leagues and be the best pitcher on his team right away.
The Pirates are not going in that direction, sending Cole down to Triple-A Indianapolis to start the season, as they should.
Cole has the best raw stuff of any pitcher in the minors right now. He has true ace potential, which is something that gets thrown around too much when discussing prospects. His fastball-changeup combination is deadly already; he just needs to get a more consistent breaking ball.
Eventually, the Pirates will give Cole a chance to pitch in the majors this season. He is not a finished product, though he has made great strides from where he was as a junior with UCLA two years ago.
It is refreshing to see the Pirates do what is in the best interest of the prospect and their future, instead of trying to chase some mythical .500 record. Last time I checked, 81-81 wasn't good enough to make the playoffs, so what difference does it make if the Pirates finish 82-80 or 80-82?
No. 4: Wil Myers, OF, Tampa Bay Rays
35 G, .343/.414/.731, 46 H, 11 2B, 1 3B, 13 HR, 30 RBI, 16 BB, 42 K, 4 SB (Double-A)
99 G, .304/.378/.554, 118 H, 15 2B, 5 3B, 24 HR, 79 RBI, 45 BB, 98 K, 2 SB (Triple-A)
Myers, along with Eric Hosmer, was supposed to be part of the resurgence in Kansas City. The Royals felt they had an opportunity to win now if they could upgrade their pitching staff, so they traded the outfielder to Tampa Bay in a seven-player deal in December.
The Rays were able to find exactly what they needed in that deal and traded from an area of strength and depth to make it happen.
Myers finally took the leap forward that everyone was expecting by hitting 37 home runs and driving in 109 runs in 2012. He was named the 2012 Baseball America Player of the Year.
A big reason for the spike in power—as well as strikeouts—was because of a change in Myers' swing last season.
J.J. Cooper of Baseball America wrote in the above-linked Player of the Year article that Myers was more upright at the plate, and that allowed him to get more leverage and power into his swing.
There isn't a lot to his swing, just tremendous bat speed and quick-twitch wrists that help him shoot through the zone, making consistent, hard contact.
The Royals moved Myers away from catching after the 2009 season to accelerate his timetable to the big leagues. He has played center field, but his range and arm strength profile better in right. He is still learning the position, but he has the ceiling of an above-average defender.
Predictions for 2013
54 G, .286/.352/.527, 71 H, 17 2B, 2 3B, 19 HR, 43 RBI, 24 BB, 53 K (Triple-A)
95 G, .243/.323/.465, 81 H, 15 2B, 3 3B, 12 HR, 51 RBI, 38 BB, 82 K (MLB)
In typical Rays fashion, they are playing things (fiscally) conservative with Myers to start the 2013 season. He was optioned to minor league camp on March 16 with the expectation he will start the season at Triple-A Durham.
On talent alone, Myers is one of the top three outfielders the Rays have and should be in their starting lineup on Opening Day. But in order to prevent his arbitration clock from ticking, he will likely be called up on or around June 1.
The Rays likely won't need Myers out of the gate because they still have one of the deepest pitching staffs in baseball, even after trading James Shields and Wade Davis, and Evan Longoria is healthy in the middle of that lineup.
If a need arises sooner than June 1, it wouldn't be a surprise to see Myers get called up before then. But this is a team that plays things very conservative when it comes to promoting top prospects.
Remember, they waited two weeks into the 2008 season to bring Longoria up for arbitration purposes.
Myers is not a finished product, so his average will likely be low when he first arrives. He will hit for enough power and get on base at a reasonable clip to justify being in the big leagues.
No. 3: Dylan Bundy, SP, Baltimore Orioles
8 GS, 1-0, 30.0 IP, 0.00 ERA, 5 H, 2 R (0 ER), 2 BB, 40 K (Low-A)
12 GS, 6-3, 57.0 IP, 2.84 ERA, 48 H, 18 ER, 5 HR, 18 BB, 66 K (High-A)
3 GS, 2-0, 16.2 IP, 3.24 ERA, 14 H, 6 ER, 1 HR, 8 BB, 13 K (Double-A)
2 G, 1.2 IP, 0.00 ERA, 1 H, 1 K (MLB)
Bundy, the No. 4 overall pick in the 2011 draft, took the prospect world by storm at the start of last season when he dominated at Low-A by giving up just five hits with 40 strikeouts in 30 innings of work.
The Orioles kept him on a strict pitch count hoping to prevent injuries, though it may have actually stunted his development a bit because he was rarely able to turn a lineup over three times and make adjustments to hitters.
Considered one of the best high school pitchers in draft history because of his overpowering stuff, advanced feel for pitching and command well beyond his years, Bundy went all the way from Low-A to Baltimore in one season.
He works with a plus-plus fastball that explodes out of his hand and can touch 97-98. His curveball is still a developing weapon for him, but it is already an average pitch at worst and shows the potential to become at least a grade higher as he gets a better feel for it.
Bundy's changeup is his third-best pitch and has the potential to be an above-average offering.
All of his pitches play up thanks to his above-average command and control. He did have moments last season where he struggled to put the ball where he wanted to, and advanced hitters were able to hit him. Another season of development will only see improved command of all his pitches.
One of the more puzzling moves the Orioles made with Bundy was having him abandon his cutter, even though it was his second-best pitch when he was coming out of high school and just gives him another weapon to fool hitters.
At 6'0", Bundy is a little smaller than your typical top-of-the-rotation pitcher, but his workouts have become legendary, and he generates his velocity by using his huge lower half to drive the ball into the zone.
He stays over the top of his fastball very well, getting more downhill plane on the pitch than his height would suggest.
Predictions for 2013
15 GS, 88 IP, 66 H, 20 ER, 6 HR, 24 BB, 106 K (Double-A)
13 G (6 GS), 34 IP, 29 H, 14 ER, 5 HR, 13 BB, 31 K (MLB)
Not that it comes as a huge surprise, but the Orioles have already optioned Bundy to Double-A Bowie to start the 2013 season. He still has a few things to iron out before he is ready to contribute in the big leagues.
Even after making the postseason last year, the Orioles have a lot of questions with that pitching staff. The bullpen—especially Buck Showalter's managing of it—was the reason they made it to the playoffs last year.
The Orioles went 29-9 in the regular season in one-run games last year. They also won 16 straight extra-inning games. Those are numbers that suggest a lot of good fortune and not something that is sustainable from year to year.
It also doesn't help matters that the team had just one pitcher (Wei-Yin Chen) who made more than 20 starts. Their margin of error is so small that everything has to go right again for them to compete, at least based on what they will enter the season with.
Eventually, the Orioles will have to see that Bundy could step into the rotation—or even the bullpen—and be their best pitcher the second he arrives. Expectations are high in Baltimore right now, so the team needs to do everything it can to at least stay in contention this summer.
No. 2: Oscar Taveras, OF, St. Louis Cardinals
124 G, .321/.380/.572, 153 H, 37 2B, 7 3B, 23 HR, 94 RBI, 42 BB, 56 K, 10 SB (Double-A)
The list of best pure hitting prospects in baseball starts and stops with Oscar Taveras. With all due respect to Wil Myers, who also enjoyed a breakout campaign in 2012, Taveras' ability to control the strike zone and put the barrel on the ball every time he swings is unmatched by anyone in the minors right now.
Taveras does all of that with one of the most unconventional swings you will ever see. He has a lot of moving parts and can get very violent because he swings so hard, but he controls it all so well and the bat explodes through the zone.
He always had raw power, but it never came through in game situations until last season. His 23 home runs were six more than he hit in his first three minor league seasons combined.
Taveras is very aggressive at the plate, not taking many walks, but he also has such good hand-eye coordination that he doesn't strike out a lot.
Despite playing center field, Taveras profiles best in right field. He is not a burner, though he does have above-average speed, and his arm strength and accuracy are more than sufficient for a corner position.
Predictions for 2013
97 G, .307/.366/.532, 106 H, 26 2B, 8 3B, 19 HR, 66 RBI, 28 BB, 33 K, 8 SB (Triple-A)
44 G, .266/.311/.432, 23 H, 10 2B, 1 3B, 6 HR, 19 RBI, 6 BB, 23 K, 2 SB (MLB)
Like the Rangers' situation with Jurickson Profar, the Cardinals have enough outfield depth to get away with keeping Taveras in Triple-A all season if they so choose.
However, when you are expected to compete for a playoff spot, have the best hitter in the minors waiting in the wings and saw Carlos Beltran hit .236/.302/.440 in the second half of last season, Taveras seems like a safe bet to at least get a taste of the big leagues this year.
Taveras is ready for The Show right now. What he can do with a bat is incredible. His plate coverage is almost unfair, because there is no spot a pitcher can throw the ball where he can't make solid contact.
Given his age and where the Cardinals stand right now—they already have an incredibly deep lineup—they can play things conservative (relatively speaking) with Taveras this season if they want.
Cardinals general manager John Mozeliak told USA Today Sports that Taveras' fate is all about opportunity and what's best for his development.
If you needed him to play in the big leagues now, he could do that. It's really about opportunity. We have two All-Stars at the corner outfield, so it's really going to come down to – would there be adequate playing time for him.
Eventually, you have to create playing time for a player of Taveras' caliber. He doesn't have much to work on—just getting more seasoning in Triple-A before conquering the big leagues full-time in 2014.
No. 1: Jurickson Profar, SS, Texas Rangers
126 G, .281/.368/.452, 135 H, 26 2B, 7 3B, 14 HR, 62 RBI, 66 BB, 79 K, 16 SB (Double-A)
9 G, .176/.176/.471, 3 H, 2 2B, 1 HR, 2 RBI, 4 K (MLB)
If you are judging players based on individual tools, Profar is not likely to grade out as the best in any one area. But when you put everything together, there is no prospect that can match his potential and upside.
He has a great, balanced swing and creates power with outstanding hip rotation that allows him to drive through the ball.
Profar just turned 20 on Feb. 20, but don't let his age fool you—he plays the game with smarts and instincts well beyond his years. He has an advanced approach at the plate, showing patience and an ability to wait on his pitch.
Those instincts also help Profar on defense, where his plus arm and range play up because he always puts himself in a position to make even the most difficult plays look routine. He is going to be an annual All-Star and MVP candidate at his peak.
Predictions for 2013
110 G, .293/.387/.477, 101 H, 23 2B, 4 3B, 14 HR, 66 RBI, 52 BB, 69 K, 18 SB (Triple-A)
37 G, .248/.321/.420, 22 H, 5 2B, 2 3B, 3 HR, 13 RBI, 12 BB, 31 K, 4 SB (MLB)
As a 19-year-old last season, Profar spent the entire season in Double-A, where he was by far the youngest player in the Texas League (h/t Baseball America). He was so impressive that the Rangers gave him a late-season cup of coffee.
He is ready to play every day right now, but the Rangers are under no pressure to get Profar to the big leagues because they have Elvis Andrus. Unless the team decides to move Ian Kinsler to the outfield (which makes little sense) in order to put Profar at second base, where his value is not nearly as great, he could start the season in Triple-A.
According to Evan Grant of the Dallas Morning News, the Rangers aren't certain what they are going to do with Profar when the season starts on March 31.
Grant does say that Rangers CEO Nolan Ryan would want to guarantee Profar at least 350 at-bats if he starts the season in the big leagues, something that doesn't seem likely right now.
Based on that assumption, Profar will start the season in Triple-A and be first on the call-up list if anything happens to Andrus, Kinsler or even Adrian Beltre.
Since Profar has never failed at any level, dating back to his time in the Little League World Series in 2004, why would Triple-A be a struggle for the best prospect in the game?
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