Teams with the Most MLB-Ready Prospect Talent for 2013

Adam WellsFeatured ColumnistMarch 21, 2013

Teams with the Most MLB-Ready Prospect Talent for 2013

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    As spring training comes to a close, teams are making final decisions on their 25-man rosters for the regular season. As nice as it would be for teams to rely on just the players they take from Arizona or Florida, we know that is not realistic. 

    Since players will get hurt or perform below expectations, teams will have to dip into their farm systems to call up a player who can serve as either a stop-gap or seize the moment to get the starting job that their considerable talent suggests they should have. 

    But as teams are forced to make decisions on talent, one really big key for going into the farm system to find it is how ready players are to make an impact at the big league level. There are some teams with loaded farm systems whose best prospects aren't ready for The Show. 

    In an ideal world, a team's best prospects will make it through the system at the same pace and make it to the majors at the same time to open the window for contention or push the current team into contention. 

    While that may not necessarily be the case with all the teams on this list, here is a look at the clubs that have the most Major League-ready talent for this season. These could be players who will start the season with the team out of spring training, come up around midseason or get a look in September. 

    A number of things could prevent a prospect from getting called up during the season—perhaps the team doesn't feel he is ready, or the roster is so deep it doesn't need additional help—but that doesn't mean there isn't someone waiting in the wings for his opportunity. 

St. Louis Cardinals

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    The Cardinals enter the 2013 season with the best farm system in baseball—and it really isn't that close. If you look over their top 10 prospects for this season, there are as many as seven players in that group who could make it to the big leagues before the end of the year. 

    If you want to go deeper than that, you can find as many as 10 players in the upper levels of the minors who could see time in St. Louis in 2013. 

     

    Oscar Taveras, OF

    Top prospect Oscar Taveras (.321/.380/.572 as a 20-year-old in Double-A last season) is almost ready. He is just going to be a victim of circumstance—though he could use some time at Triple-A—because the Cardinals have a crowded outfield mix. 

    But if for some reason Carlos Beltran gets hurt, which tends to happen a lot, or hits the way he did in the second half (.236/.302/.440), you better believe that general manager John Mozeliak will be calling up Taveras from Memphis. 

     

    Trevor Rosenthal, RP

    Beyond Taveras, the Cardinals are going to get immediate contributions from Trevor Rosenthal. The flame-throwing right-hander was in competition to be the No. 5 starter, but it was announced on March 7 he will be in the bullpen to start the year. 

     

    Shelby Miller, SP

    Shelby Miller, also in competition to be the No. 5 starter, had a cup of coffee in the big leagues at the end of last season after recovering from a brutal first half at Triple-A to post a 2.88 ERA, with 48 hits and seven walks against 70 strikeouts in 59.1 innings after the All-Star break. He is ready right now and should start the season with the Cardinals. 

     

    Carlos Martinez, SP

    Martinez has one of the best arms in the minors, running his fastball up to triple digits on occasion. He performed well across two levels last season (92 strikeouts, 32 walks, 91 hits allowed in 104.1 innings pitched) and looks more like a starter than he ever has before. 

    The most likely scenario for Martinez to make it to the big leagues this season will be out of the bullpen—in part because his command isn't ready for a starting role yet, in part because the Cardinals are loaded with starting candidates—but he could get a spot start in September. 

     

    Matt Adams, 1B

    First baseman Matt Adams, like Taveras, is just a victim of circumstance. He did struggle in 27 games in St. Louis last season (.244/.286/.384) and is blocked by Allen Craig at first base, but he has big power potential and is a solid average hitter. Given Craig's history with injuries, Adams will likely be called upon for at least a short stretch of the season. 

     

    Kolten Wong, 2B

    The Cardinals have a hole at second base they are trying to fill with Matt Carpenter, who is moving from third base. But they have a good, near-ready natural second baseman waiting in Kolten Wong. He is a line-drive, contact hitter with excellent bat control and at least above-average defense. 

     

    Michael Wacha, SP

    Wacha could be one of the first players from the 2012 draft to make it to the big leagues. He doesn't have overpowering stuff, but he is polished with an advanced feel for three above-average or better pitches (fastball, curveball, changeup). 

    If a need arises late in the season, or the Cardinals just want to see how he handles himself, don't be surprised if the former Texas A&M right-hander gets a look. 

     

    Ryan Jackson. SS

    If the Cardinals decide to stop letting the small sample size of success Pete Kozma had at the end of the year and face the fact that he is a well below-average hitter and decent defender, they will bring Ryan Jackson up to fill their hole at shortstop. 

    Even though Jackson isn't much better with the stick than Kozma, he is a much better defender with more range, better instincts and a stronger, more accurate arm. Given how deep the lineup is, the Cardinals can sacrifice some offense to improve the defense at shortstop. 

     

    Maikel Cleto, RP

    Cleto has an electric arm—which is a common theme among pitchers in the Cardinals' system—working with a power fastball-slider combination. Command has been a big problem for him, but if he can get the ball over the plate consistently, he will be a late-inning reliever this season. 

Texas Rangers

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    Reports of the Rangers' demise have been greatly exaggerated. This team is still stacked with talent throughout the system. They are deeper than either Oakland or Los Angeles in the American League West, and have more impact talent to bring up from the minors than their biggest division rivals. 

    Everything starts with Jurickson Profar, baseball's top prospect entering the season, but he is just the tip of a very deep iceberg. 

     

    Jurickson Profar, SS

    If Profar played with almost any other team, he would at least start the season in the big leagues at 20 years old. But because the Rangers have Elvis Andrus at shortstop and Ian Kinsler at second base, there isn't room for him right now. 

    Even though he could handle second base, moving Profar off shortstop—even for a season—diminishes the value and impact he can have. He has an approach at the plate of a seasoned veteran, incredible bat control, instincts, plus arm and range at shortstop. 

    Don't be shocked if the Rangers try some maneuvering to get Profar in their lineup every day this year, even though some time at Triple-A wouldn't be the worst thing in the world. It's not like age is working against him right now. 

     

    Mike Olt, 3B

    When the Rangers called up Mike Olt last August, they didn't really have a plan for him. He played sporadically, struggled when he was in the lineup (.152/.250/.182 in 33 at-bats) and then battled inflammation in his heel

    Like Profar, Olt just doesn't seem to have a spot with the Rangers at the start of the season. Adrian Beltre isn't going anywhere at third base. Moving Olt to first base diminishes his value, because he is a plus defender at the hot corner and his bat isn't worth as much on the other side of the diamond.

    Given Beltre's injury history—he has missed at least 38 games in two of the last three seasons—Olt will get another shot in Texas this season. As long as Ron Washington lets him play, he should hit for power with a lot of strikeouts right away. 

     

    Martin Perez, SP

    Perez looked like the front-runner for the No. 5 spot in the Rangers' rotation this spring before suffering a broken arm when he was hit by a comebacker in a game against Seattle. He has been on the radar for a big-league job since 2009 after making it to Double-A as an 18-year-old. 

    His stock has fallen in the three years since, as his stuff hasn't looked as sharp and the control didn't develop as expected, but he doesn't turn 22 until April 4 and is learning to pitch without dominating stuff. 

    The Rangers will need rotation depth as the season goes along—who doesn't?—so when Perez is healthy, expect him to get another crack at earning a starting job before the end of the year. 

     

    Justin Grimm, SP

    Grimm's ability to start or relieve makes him a strong candidate for a call-up this season. He struggled last season, giving up 14 runs in 14 innings, and has been a mess this spring, allowing 15 hits and six walks in 9.1 innings, so more time in the minors seems to be in order. 

    But he uses two different fastballs and a curveball to miss enough bats. His changeup is still developing and will determine what his ultimate role is. 

     

    Cody Buckel, SP

    Buckel's stock continued to rise last season after moving to Double-A as a 20-year-old. Across two levels last season, he posted a 2.49 ERA with 159 strikeouts in 144.2 innings. He doesn't have the highest ceiling because the stuff isn't overpowering, but he mixes pitches well and has an easy, repeatable delivery. 

     

    Engel Beltre, OF

    Beltre is one of the best pure athletes in the minors–he just hasn't been able to translate his tools into success on the baseball field. He has an overaggressive approach at the plate that will prevent him from getting on base enough to be a star, but his speed and glove in the outfield should get him a cup of coffee later this season. 

     

    Luery Garcia, SS/OF

    Garcia is arguably the best defensive shortstop in the system (Luis Sardinas also has a claim to the Iron Throne), with a tremendous arm, elite range and great footwork. He understands his limitations at the plate, using a compact swing to make contact and let his plus speed take over. 

    His biggest problem, which isn't really his fault, is the Rangers have so much depth at shortstop, there might not be room for him in the big leagues this season. 

Tampa Bay Rays

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    The Rays have been the envy of baseball for years. Sure, there have been other teams that have built through their farm systems. But no one gets more out of their system without spending big money in free agency than Tampa Bay has. It's just a shame no one shows up to watch the team play. 

    After a down year–at least by their lofty standards–the Rays figure to get a lot of help from their system this season on their quest to get back to the postseason. 

     

    Wil Myers, OF

    The Rays essentially stole Myers, who hit 37 home runs across two levels last year, from Kansas City in December, giving up two years of James Shields and a reliever in Wade Davis for six years of cost control with Wil Myers (and two other players who will show up on this list soon). 

    Even though Myers will start the season at Triple-A Durham–likely for arbitration purposes–he is going to get brought up as soon as the Rays know they can get an extra year of control out of him. His natural hitting ability and plus power are exactly what this lineup needs. 

     

    Chris Archer, SP

    Always possessing a great arm with a plus-plus fastball-slider combination, Archer took a few steps forward last season even though command and consistency remains the biggest obstacles holding him back. 

    At 24, Archer will probably never turn into the top-of-the-rotation star his raw stuff suggests he could. But he looked effective in limited action last year, striking out 36, allowing 23 hits and 13 walks in 29.1 innings. 

    In a worst-case scenario, the Rays can stick Archer in the back of the bullpen and let him be their closer. 

     

    Jake Odorizzi, SP

    One of the other players the Rays got in the trade with Kansas City, Odorizzi is the definition of a solid prospect. He has one of the easiest deliveries in the minors, repeats it well and commands all of his pitches. 

    Boasting a four-pitch mix, Odorizzi doesn't overpower hitters. He has the ceiling of a No. 3 starter. The Royals gave him a one-game spot start at the end of last season, but the Rays will likely have him start the season in Triple-A and bring him when they have a need. 

     

    Hak-Ju Lee, SS

    Lee's ceiling doesn't look as promising as it once did, because his offensive profile is limited, but he is still a plus defender at shortstop with plus range, an above-average arm and a great feel for the position. 

    Even though he won't hit for power, Lee makes enough contact to be an average hitter–at least for a shortstop–and he has a good feel for the strike zone. He could be a late-season callup. 

     

    Alex Colome, RP

    Even though Colome has been a starter in the minors, he doesn't have enough command/control of his pitches to stick in that role in the big leagues. He does fit the profile of a power reliever, with a big fastball and still-developing curveball that could be his knockout pitch. 

    If Colome can ever consistently put the ball over the plate, he could turn into a dominant closer/high-leverage reliever. 

     

    Mike Montgomery, SP

    Montgomery was the wild card acquired from Kansas City in the Wil Myers trade. There was a time, just one year ago, when he looked like one of the top left-handed pitchers in the minors. He has struggled with mechanical issues ever since, allowing 243 baserunners in 149.2 innings last season. 

    But you can look at Montgomery and still see a left-handed pitcher who can run his fastball up to 95. That will tell you why teams are always going to give him a chance, and why the Rays were happy to get him as a reclamation project in a trade. 

     

    Tim Beckham, SS

    Beckham will always be infamous for going as the No. 1 overall pick in the same draft that saw Buster Posey go No. 5 to San Francisco, even though he was the consensus top talent in that class. 

    His status fell off a cliff two years ago when he was not making any progress. While Beckham hasn't gotten back to the lofty status he had prior to the draft, his bat looks much better and he should hit enough to get a look at some point this season. His defense at shortstop leaves something to be desired, but he can move to second base and hold his own. 

Seattle Mariners

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    Even though the Mariners aren't going to fight for a playoff spot this season, their fans will at least get a glimpse of the promising future. Their system has gotten much deeper over the last three years, and there is impact talent on the way. 

    The biggest key for Seattle will be finding enough hitters to support the wealth of pitching that is on its way. 

     

    Taijuan Walker, SP

    The stats were not kind to Walker in 2012, as he posted a 4.69 ERA and allowed 174 baserunners in 126.2 innings at Double-A. But when you factor in that he pitched most of the season at 19-years-old, the youngest player in the Southern League, and his stuff actually improved later in the year, you can see why everyone is so high on the young right-hander. 

    Walker still needs time to refine his delivery, getting more consistent with his body, and command his fastball in the zone. He has the upside of a No. 1 starter and could get a call to Seattle in the second half of the season. 

     

    Mike Zunino, C

    Zunino was the No. 3 pick in last year's draft and isn't far away from being in the big leagues. He came into professional baseball with a polished set of tools, both with the bat and behind the plate. His ceiling isn't off the charts, but he has average or better skills on offense and defense. 

    There is not a lot for Zunino to work on in the minors, and the Mariners really need a catcher who can catch–sorry, Jesus Montero. He is on the fast track to Seattle. 

     

    Danny Hultzen, SP

    Known for his command at the University of Virginia, Hultzen struggled to throw quality strikes in his first professional season. He walked 75 in 124 innings, but also allowed just 87 hits across two levels. 

    His ceiling is limited as a command/control left-hander with an average fastball and plus changeup. His ability to hit his spots and mix pitches gives him No. 3 starter upside. He could be the first player the Mariners bring up this season. 

     

    Nick Franklin, SS

    Franklin's first trip to Tacoma last season did not go well. He hit just .243/.310/.416 in 64 games after moving up from Double-A. He worked this offseason to bulk up, including eating 6,500 calories per day, and add more power to his game. 

    Whether the added weight will help him or not, Franklin can be a solid-average regular very soon. He has an easy swing that generates a lot of line drives. He will likely end up hitting a lot of doubles with 12-15 home runs at his peak. He doesn't have the range or arm to play shortstop at a high level. His ceiling is more likely that of an offense-first second baseman.

     

    James Paxton, SP

    After spending all last season with Double-A Jackson, Paxton will spend the first part of 2013 at Triple-A Tacoma. He has a good arm with an above-average fastball from the left side and a solid curveball. He lacks an effective third pitch right now and doesn't have a great delivery. 

    Because he is left-handed and has yet to fail in that role–he struck out 110 in 106.1 innings last season–the Mariners will give him every chance to start. If he can find enough command, he can be a No. 3 starter. 

     

    Brandon Maurer, SP

    You can clearly see where the Mariners organizational strength lies, as Maurer is the fourth pitcher on this list. His stock is slowly rising thanks to staying healthy and showing a quality four-pitch mix. 

    He has a great pitcher's frame at 6'5", 215 pounds and pounds the ball down in the zone. Maurer isn't overpowering–relying on mixing pitches to keep hitters off balance. He might surpass Paxton on the totem pole this season. 

     

    Carter Capps, RP

    The Mariners have their closer of the future with Carter Capps. He got an 18-game tryout with the big-league club last season, throwing 25 innings and striking out 28. He has the profile of a dominant late-inning reliever, with a fastball that can touch 100 and a curveball that can dislocate knees. 

Boston Red Sox

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    One big problem the Red Sox had in the disaster that was 2012 was a lack of depth, especially in the minors, to fill holes that popped up when Jacoby Ellsbury, Dustin Pedroia and David Ortiz went down with injuries. 

    That won't be the case this season, as the Red Sox are in much better position to dip into the system if they have to. 

     

    Xander Bogaerts, SS

    Bogaerts continues to dazzle wherever he goes, hitting .307/.373/.528 across two levels last season. He is just 20-years-old and has only a handful of games at Double-A, but his bat is going to be special. He is already showing the ability to hit for average and power, though he can be too aggressive at times. 

    His defensive profile continues to change, with more and more scouting reports thinking his body won't get so out of control that he can stay at shortstop. If that is the case, he has the potential to be an MVP at his peak. Even though 2014 is more likely for his debut, he could get a cup of coffee in September. 

     

    Jackie Bradley, Jr., OF

    Bradley's stock is soaring with the Red Sox brass right now, but because there isn't any immediate playing time available in Boston when the season starts, he will end up starting the season in Triple-A. 

    Given Jacoby Ellsbury's injury history, Bradley should expect a call sooner than later. He is a great defensive center fielder with some of the best instincts you will see and a simple swing that he uses to hit for average and a lot of doubles. 

     

    Matt Barnes, SP

    After bursting onto the scene with just 12 hits allowed and 42 strikeouts in 26.2 innings at Low-A (a league he was too advanced for anyway), Barnes came back to earth a bit when he moved up to High-A. 

    But Barnes shows a plus-plus fastball with movement, an improving curveball and solid-average changeup. His delivery is very clean and he repeats it well. The earliest he will be ready for the big leagues is the second half, with September the most-likely scenario. 

     

    Allen Webster, SP

    Acquired from Los Angeles in the blockbuster trade last August, Webster will be the first of the Red Sox top pitching prospects to get called up. He has a good fastball that sits in the low 90s, a knockout changeup and solid slider. 

    Command issues have held Webster back–he walked 61 in 130.2 innings last season–but the ceiling is high and the stuff is almost big-league ready. Some time in Triple-A will be good for him, with June being the time the Red Sox bring him up. 

     

    Jose Iglesias, SS

    Iglesias has been knocking on the door to Boston for the last two years, even getting a 25-game tryout in 2012. If he could only play in the field, he would have been up long ago. He is the best defender at the position in the minors, with incredible range, instincts and an accurate arm. He gets to everything hit in the vicinity of second and third base. 

    The problems come when you put a bat in his hands. He can hit line drives, but doesn't have enough bat speed or pop to really drive the ball. He walks enough, though he isn't incredibly selective at the plate. If he can hit an empty .260-.270 in the big leagues, he can be a 2-3 WAR player because his defense is that good. 

     

    Chris Carpenter, RP

    Carpenter has one of the best arms in the minors, with a fastball that can touch triple digits and a slider that would be a weapon if he had any idea where it was going. Finding the strike zone has always been his biggest issue, but the stuff is worth an extended look out of the Red Sox bullpen when the season starts. 

Arizona Diamondbacks

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    After a puzzling offseason that saw Arizona trade Chris Young, Justin Upton and Trevor Bauer at seemingly discounted rates, the team has made it clear that it has a direction it wants to go and will do anything to get there. 

    Whether you think the moves the Diamondbacks made were good or not, there are reasons to be optimistic because of what is on the way from the system this season. 

     

    Adam Eaton, OF

    Eaton is an early favorite for National League Rookie of the Year because he will get plenty of playing time and his tools are ready to play right now. He has a limited offensive ceiling, as there is little power projection, but he makes solid contact, drives the ball into the gap, has plus speed and knows how to work a count. 

    Defensively, Eaton is a plus center fielder. He covers a lot of ground with his speed and good instincts. His arm strength and accuracy are above-average. A .280 hitter with a .360 on-base percentage and plus defense in center is an incredibly valuable asset. 

     

    Tyler Skaggs, SP

    The Diamondbacks have already sent Skaggs down to Triple-A to start the season because he didn't look right this spring. His stuff wasn't crisp and never really got better, and he gave up 14 hits in nine innings. 

    But I am not too concerned about that right now, since it is only March. If he makes it to May and June with no improvement, then I will be worried.

    At his peak last season, Skaggs worked with a plus curveball, above-average fastball and solid changeup. He has a great left-handed delivery and knows how to pitch. Even without an overpowering fastball, he has the upside of a No. 2 starter. 

     

    Matt Davidson, 3B

    Davidson is an odd-man out heading into the season, because Martin Prado will be manning the hot corner. He could give them something to think about, as a third baseman with above-average power and defense. 

    There is some length to his swing, so he will likely never hit for a high average, but he also has plate discipline and gets on base. Davidson could be a midseason or September call-up. 

     

    Didi Gregorious, SS

    Despite what Diamondbacks general manager Kevin Towers will have you believe, Gregorius is not the next Derek Jeter. For starters, Gregorius is a good defensive shortstop. 

    Beyond that, Gregorius can't hit. He struggles to read offspeed pitches and has no power to drive the ball. His value is tied entirely into his ability to defend at shortstop, which he does well. He has a plus arm and above-average range. His arm will play at the position. 

    An ailing elbow at the start of spring training has likely made it so Gregorius will start the season at Triple-A. That will give him a chance to feast on some of those nice Pacific Coast League hitting environments. 

     

    A.J. Pollock, OF

    A solid prospect without a big tool, Pollock is a good hitter with some bat speed and a strong approach at the plate. He has some speed and is a good defender at either corner. 

    Pollock is another player hurt by Arizona's offseason moves, as he is probably fifth or sixth in the outfield rotation now. He will get a shot in the big leagues again at some point this season, but a stint in Triple-A will let him play everyday. 

     

    David Holmberg, SP

    The Diamondbacks have a lot of depth in the rotation–and will get even more when Daniel Hudson returns from Tommy John surgery this summer–but Holmberg has put himself on their radar with a strong 2012 season where he recorded 153 strikeouts against just 37 walks in 173.1 innings. 

    Holmberg doesn't overpower you with velocity, but works with a deep arsenal that he knows how to locate in and around the zone. He will need more time in the minors, but a July or August call-up would not be pushing things. 

     


New York Mets

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    The New York Mets are starting to embrace the rebuilding job that everyone around them has felt needed to happen years ago. Their system is still not elite, but it is getting better and there is impact talent close to the big leagues. 

    Fans in New York don't like to hear the "R" word, even though it will eventually pay huge dividends for them down the road. 

     

    Zack Wheeler, SP

    The Mets were right to send top prospect Zack Wheeler down, as he needs to work on his changeup to get lefties out and command the fastball in the zone. But he will likely join Matt Harvey at the top of the rotation very soon. 

    Considering how good Harvey's stuff looked in his brief run in the majors last year, and Wheeler's upside as a No. 2 starter, the Mets have one of the best young pitching duos in baseball on their hands. 

     

    Travis d'Arnaud, C

    All d'Arnaud has to do is stay healthy long enough to prove to the Mets he can handle the daily grind of catching in the big leagues. Coming up through the minors, he has played more than 71 games just twice in six years. 

    When he is in the lineup, d'Arnaud has the best all-around package of any catcher in the minors. He can hit for average, hit for power, get on base, he blocks and receives well, and has an above-average throwing arm. 

     

    Jeurys Familia, RP

    Even though he started 28 games at Triple-A Buffalo last season, it is time to give up on the idea that Familia can handle a starting role. He has well below-average command and a violent delivery. 

    The stuff is electric, with a mid-90s fastball with movement and solid slider, and it will play well out of the bullpen. If he could find the strike zone enough, Familia could pitch late in games. 

     

    Matt Den Dekker, OF

    The Mets' outfield situation is so ludicrous right now that the joke about Bobby Bonilla and Jason Bay being their two highest-paid outfielders actually makes you kind of sad to think about. 

    Matt Den Dekker will be a beneficiary of the Mets' misery, as he should get to the big leagues very soon thanks to his versatility as a defense-first outfielder. He offers little, if any, offensive projection with no power and a loopy swing that has been exposed against better pitching. 

Other Notables to Watch

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    These are teams that don't have much depth ready to play in the big leagues right now, but will get contributions from a significant prospect. 

     

    Cleveland Indians

    Trevor Bauer has the best raw stuff of any Indians' starter, but a few weeks in Triple-A to work on commanding his fastball and throwing his breaking ball for strikes will serve him well. 

     

    Atlanta Braves

    This should be the year where Julio Teheran finally gets a fair shot to make it in the Atlanta rotation. His ceiling isn't as lofty as it once was, but he is still just 22-years-old. 

     

    Kansas City Royals

    John Lamb is still working his way back from Tommy John surgery in 2011. He could be part of that rebuilt Royals' rotation around midseason. Yordano Ventura has just six games of experience at Double-A and is miscast as a starter. Moving him to the bullpen, where his big fastball will play better, would accelerate his timetable and help his development since he doesn't have a second pitch. 

     

    San Diego Padres

    Jedd Gyorko might get a big-league job out of spring training after Chase Headley suffered a fractured left thumb and will miss 4-6 weeks. Robbie Erlin's ceiling is low because of a below-average fastball, but he has a solid offspeed repertoire and could thrive in pitcher-friendly PetCo Park. 

     

    Houston Astros

    Jonathan Singleton won't need a lot of time in the minors after he returns from a 50-game suspension after testing positive for marijuana. Jarred Cosart should move to the bullpen, where his fastball-curveball combination will play up since he doesn't have to worry about command as much.

     

    If you want to talk about prospects–or anything else baseball–feel free to hit me up on Twitter.