Grading Every MLB Team's No. 1 Prospect in Spring Training
The end of spring training gives us one last chance to look back at what baseball's best prospects managed to do when they were given the task of competing against big leaguers in a very informal setting.
Rather than go through another list of 50 or 100 prospects, which would include multiple players from some teams and no one from others, we wanted to let you know how your favorite team's top prospect fared this spring.
As fun as it is talking about many of the prospects in the St. Louis, Texas and Minnesota farm systems, that doesn't necessarily provide you with a wide spectrum of what happened this spring.
So here is a final look at what the top prospect from all 30 teams managed to do in spring training, including stats and where they will begin the season.
Note: All stats courtesy of MLB.com unless otherwise noted. Top prospect reflects my rankings of a player within an organization. Some of these prospects did not play in MLB spring training games, so a longer scouting report will be written in those spots.
Atlanta Braves: Julio Teheran, SP
6 GS, 3-1, 26.0 IP, 1.04 ERA, 7 H, 3 ER, 2 HR, 9 BB, 35 K
Best performance: March 23 vs. Houston (6 IP, 0 H, 3 BB, 10 K)
Worst performance: March 7 vs. Detroit (4 IP, 3 H, 1 ER, 1 BB, 5 K)
What Teheran has done this spring is remarkable. Forget the numbers, and look at the way he carries himself on the mound. For the first time in his young career, the flame throwing right-hander looks like he belongs in the big leagues.
The two things that have always held Teheran back is commanding his fastball in the zone and finding a consistent breaking ball that opposing hitters at least had to respect. He is showing a lot of improvement in both areas this spring.
Obviously, the real test will come when Teheran steps on the mound in the regular season, but so far, so good.
Miami Marlins: Christian Yelich, OF
22 G, .364/.451/.818, 3 2B, 1 3B, 5 HR, 14 RBI, 6 BB, 7 K
Best performance: March 18 vs. Minnesota (2-for-3, 1 HR, 1 RBI, 1 Run, 1 K)
Worst performance: March 8 vs. New York Yankees (0-for-3, 1 RBI, 1 BB)
Yelich is one of those players who looks even better the more you watch him play. He has emerged as one of the best prospects in baseball thanks to some defensive adjustments he made in center field last season, showing better instincts and making more accurate throws.
But the one thing no one ever questioned was the bat. Yelich has done nothing to change anyone's opinion this spring, showing that sweet left-handed swing and more power in games. He has not had what one can call a truly terrible game this spring, with a few o-fers here and there but nothing outrageous.
The Marlins have a lot of problems, but the one thing they can rest their hat on is knowing that Yelich likely won't need a lot more time in the minors. He will start the season in Double-A, but he will be patrolling center field in the big leagues very soon.
New York Mets: Zack Wheeler, SP
1 G, 2.0 IP, 1 H, 0 ER, 1 BB, 2 K
Best performance: February 23 vs. Washington (2 IP, 1 H, 0 ER, 1 BB, 2 K)
Worst performance: N/A
There was an outside shot—though very slim for arbitration purposes—that the Mets would add Wheeler to their big league rotation this spring, but a strained right oblique muscle suffered early in February ended any hope of that.
It is hard to really say anything, good or bad, about Wheeler's spring training because it never really got going. He had the one outing against Washington at the end of February and looked effective enough, at least as much a pitcher can in two innings of work.
Don't let this get you down, as the Mets will add Wheeler to the rotation later this year. Along with Matt Harvey, this franchise will have its best 1-2 punch in nearly 30 years. News of Johan Santana's shoulder, which could end his career, could cause the Mets to accelerate Wheeler's timetable, though, he does need the work in Triple-A to start the season.
Philadelphia Phillies: Adam Morgan, SP
3 G (1 GS), 0-1, 9.1 IP, 9 H, 2 ER, 1 HR, 5 BB, 11 K
Best performance: March 22 vs. Atlanta (4.2 IP, 4 H, 1 ER, 3 BB, 5 K, 1 HR)
Worst performance: February 27 vs. Minnesota (1.2 IP, 5 H, 4 R (1 ER), 4 K)
Morgan has had a steady rise through the Phillies system over the last two years. His ceiling isn't high, but he will bring three above-average pitches with command and feel for all of them.
Right now, with the Phillies seemingly unaware of what direction they should be going, their farm system lacks high impact talent and depth. That used to be a staple of this team when they were winning division titles and competing for World Series championships.
In a limited sample, Morgan has shown that he won't be far away from the big leagues when the season begins. Even though he had spots where his command abandoned him, I wouldn't worry about that too much when the regular season starts.
Where the Phillies are at right now, Morgan could make a cameo appearance in the City of Brotherly Love before the end of the year.
Washington Nationals: Anthony Rendon, 3B
13 G, .375/.412/.875, 4 2B, 4 HR, 11 RBI, 1 BB, 6 K
Best performance: March 13 vs. Houston (4-for-5, 1 2B, 1 HR, 3 RBI, 1 Run)
Worst performance: March 10 vs. Detroit (0-for-3, 1 K)
When you are talking about Anthony Rendon, you have to start with his health. He has battled injuries throughout his career going back to his college days at Rice, even being limited to just 43 games last season due to a fractured ankle.
After Rendon recovered last season, he hit just .233,.363 and .489 with four different teams—some of them he was too advanced for, anyway. But when he finally made it to Double-A, he was at least challenged.
This spring, Rendon has been able to take the field without problem, and the results have been spectacular. When I saw him at Arizona Fall League last October, the biggest thing I noticed was that his pitch recognition seemed to be off. That was understandable, given all the time he missed.
Yet even now, Rendon has walked just once during spring training. Hopefully he can stay healthy this season, because when he is able to play, he has star potential.
Chicago Cubs: Javier Baez, 3B
17 G, .298/.313/.596, 2 2B, 4 HR, 10 RBI, 1 SB, 1 BB, 12 K
Best performance: March 16 vs. Kansas City (2-for-3, 2 HR, 2 RBI, 2 Runs)
Worst performance: March 18 vs. San Diego (0-for-4, 1 RBI, 2 K)
Baez has one goal when he steps up to the plate: Swing as hard as possible to hit the ball really, really far. That strategy serves him well right now, because his bat speed is so good. It is the quickest bat in the minors, and his wrists just explode through the zone when he unloads.
However, that is also Baez's greatest detriment right now. He is at an age where swinging at everything isn't a big deal, but you want to see him at least focus on working counts, pitch recognition and taking pitches.
That will be the goal for Baez this season, who has All-Star potential. There might be some clamoring from Cubs fans to move him quickly because of the power he has shown this spring. Fortunately, the team knows better, because he has a lot to work on in the minors.
Even on defense, Baez still has to prove that he will be able to stick at shortstop. His chances look good right now, as he is showing solid range and a plus arm. If he can stay up the middle, he could be one of the five best prospects in the game next season.
Cincinnati Reds: Billy Hamilton, SS/CF
12 G, .174/.240/.348, 2 3B, 3 SB, 2 BB, 9 K
Best performance: March 1 vs. Kansas City (1-for-2, 2 SB)
Worst performance: March 5 vs. Los Angeles Angels (0-for-3, 1 K)
If you don't know about Hamilton, you obviously haven't been following baseball over the last 12 months. He set a new minor league record for stolen bases in a season with 155 in 2012. Some players are fast, but that doesn't do justice to what Hamilton can do on a field.
There are true stories about Hamilton that would seem like over-exaggerated legends for Chuck Norris. In high school he once made a catch on the warning track while playing shortstop. He has scored from second base on routine fly balls to the outfield.
Hamilton is also learning to play a new position, moving from shortstop to center field. It is a smart move for the Reds, as he always had awkward footwork and a whip-like throwing motion that led to inaccurate throws.
He obviously has the speed to track down balls hit anywhere in the outfield, though it will take him time to adjust to reading the bat off the ball and positioning himself better so he doesn't always have to rely on running to the ball.
Power will not be a part of Hamilton's game, as his swing is very short and his body isn't big enough to drive the ball out. He will get extra-base hits because of his speed and could hit at the top of a lineup soon.
This spring has been a learning experience for Hamilton, who is going to need a lot of time at Triple-A before he is ready to play in Cincinnati.
Milwaukee Brewers: Wily Peralta, SP
4 GS, 2-1, 5.74 ERA, 15.2 IP, 23 H, 10 ER, 2 HR, 4 BB, 8 K
Best performance: March 19 vs. Los Angeles Angels (6 IP, 6 H, 1 ER, 1 HBP, 2 K)
Worst performance: March 24 vs. San Diego (5.1 IP, 10 H, 6 ER, 2 HR, 3 BB, 4 K)
They say that teams don't usually react to what they see in spring training, but given Peralta's erratic performance, one could surmise that as a big reason the Brewers decided to sign Kyle Lohse for their rotation.
Peralta has pitched in 12 regular-season games for the Brewers, posting a 7.31 ERA and allowing six home runs in 32 innings. He is not a high-ceiling arm but does have the stuff and command of his pitches to be a good mid-rotation pitcher.
But Peralta will have to earn his spot in the rotation when he starts the season at Triple-A. Given the Brewers' lack of pitching depth, he should get another shot before June if everything goes well with him.
Pittsburgh Pirates: Gerrit Cole, SP
3 G (2 GS), 1-0, 10.0 IP, 3.60 ERA, 8 H, 4 ER, 1 HR, 2 BB, 7 K
Best performance: March 16 vs. Minnesota (4 IP, 5 H, 1 ER, 0 BB, 4 K)
Worst performance: March 10 vs. Baltimore (4 IP, 2 H, 2 ER, 1 HR, 1 BB, 2 K)
For reasons not entirely clear, Cole tends to get lost in the shuffle of 2011 draft picks, even though he was taken No. 1 overall and has better raw stuff than 99.9 percent of pitchers in the minors.
There are certain areas where Cole struggles—commanding his fastball, staying on top of his slider—but it is rare to find a pitcher with a plus-plus fastball-changeup combination and a plus slider to back it up.
Cole is not far away from debuting for the Pirates—he will likely get a shot around midseason, if all goes well. This spring has shown the best and worst of Cole. He still shows tremendous raw stuff, but he also gets hit a lot more than someone with his arsenal should.
It is not a huge concern right now, as he will pitch this season at 22 years old and is already in Triple-A. But you would like to see less solid contact against a pitcher who can throw three big-league caliber pitches.
St. Louis Cardinals: Oscar Taveras, OF
22 G, .301/.338/.438, 4 2B, 2 HR, 10 RBI, 2 SB, 4 BB, 7 K
Best performance: March 6 vs. Miami (2-for-3, 1 2B, 1 HR, 2 RBI, 1 Run, 1 K)
Worst performance: March 16 vs. Detroit (0-for-3, 1 K)
Any discussion of Taveras starts with his bat. He has something so rare when he steps up to the plate that you can't help but be fascinated by what you are seeing. He has a swing that no hitting coach would teach, as it gets very violent. Yet somehow he manages to control it and makes rock-solid contact.
His home-run power arrived last season when he hit 23 as a 20-year-old in Double-A. He doesn't walk much, but because he has such great bat control and plate coverage, he won't strike out much.
This spring has been great for Taveras to make his mark against big league pitching. He is going to start the season at Triple-A, mainly because the Cardinals have so much outfield depth that they can get away with sending him to the minors all season or until Carlos Beltran breaks down.
Eventually, Taveras will be brought up, because you can't leave an impact bat like that, which is really close to being big-league ready right now, in the minors all season. Especially when you have a team that can win a World Series.
Arizona Diamondbacks: Tyler Skaggs, SP
4 G (2 GS), 0-2, 9.0 IP, 11.00 ERA, 14 H, 11 ER, 1 HR, 8 BB, 5 K
Best performance: February 23 vs. Colorado (1.2 IP, 4 H, 4 R (2 ER), 0 BB, 2 K)
Worst performance: February 28 vs. Cincinnati (0.2 IP, 3 H, 3 ER, 2 BB, 1 K)
This has been a brutal spring for Skaggs. It would be one thing if he was just struggling and his stuff was clean. Unfortunately, that hasn't been the case. His fastball velocity is down just a bit, and his command has been all over the place.
Considering that Skaggs was working with just an above-average fastball, any loss of velocity on the pitch is going to make him easier to square up especially when he isn't commanding it in the zone. His curveball command has been inconsistent, though it still looks like a plus offering.
Skaggs had a shot to make the Diamondbacks rotation out of spring training, but because his struggles have been so pronounced, he will start the season in Triple-A to iron some things out. He will be a key player to watch just to see if his dip in velocity was a function of the offseason or a sign of something else.
Colorado Rockies: David Dahl
Dahl has not been in big league camp for the Rockies, as he has 67 games of rookie-level experience after being taken with the 10th pick in last June's draft.
However, that doesn't mean we can't talk about what he offers and what this season holds for the young outfielder.
Possessing natural hitting ability, Dahl hit .379, .423 and.625 in 67 games last year. For an 18-year-old just out of the draft, those are fantastic stats to put up in rookie-league ball. He is a terrific athlete, profiling well as a right fielder with plus power and above-average defense, with a chance to stick in center.
One big key for Dahl will be adding some bulk to his frame as he tries to maintain that power production as he moves up the ladder and faces advanced pitching. If he does add muscle, it will decrease the chances he can stay in center.
But even as a corner outfielder, Dahl projects to be a star because he can really hit. He has a simple swing with bat speed and control to make hard contact. He could earn a full-season assignment in 2013.
Los Angeles Dodgers: Yasiel Puig, OF
26 G, .526/.508/.842, 5 2B, 2 3B, 3 HR, 11 RBI, 4 SB, 0 BB, 11 K
Best performance: March 15 vs. Kansas City (3-for-3, 1 HR, 2 RBI, 3 Runs, 1 SB)
Worst performance: March 12 vs. Cincinnati (0-for-2, 2 K)
With the possible exception of Boston's Jackie Bradley, Jr., no player has done more to elevate his standing within his own organization than Puig. The Cuban-born outfielder has been one of the biggest stories this spring, showing off five-tool potential and making waves with the right people.
Even though there has been some speculation that Puig could start the season in the big leagues, that would be a mistake for his development. First, before the comparisons to Yoenis Cespedes start, remember that Puig just turned 22 years old; Cespedes debuted at 26.
Puig has also just played 23 actual games, not including this spring, over the last two years when he was barred from playing in Cuba after a failed attempt to defect from the country in 2011.
When you see Puig throwing bullets from right field to third base and launching balls over the fence, you might think that he is ready to play in the big leagues today. But beware the inflated spring stats for a player who signed a big bonus.
The best course of action would be for Puig to start the season in Double-A, which he will, and, for his sake, spend the entire season in the minors.
San Diego Padres: Austin Hedges, C
4 G, 0-for-3, 1 Run
This has been a rough spring for San Diego, with the news that Rymer Liriano, arguably the team's best hitting prospect, will miss the entire season after undergoing Tommy John surgery.
One thing the Padres can hang their hat on is seeing the progress that Hedges has made since his debut early last season. Regarded as a terrific defender with some offensive potential, the 21-year-old exceeded even the wildest expectations placed on him in 2012.
Hedges has one of the best throwing arms behind the plate, is incredibly nimble and blocks balls with ease. He has tremendous receiving skills and knows how to call a game. His offense was a pleasant surprise, as he hit .279, .334 and .451 in 96 games last year.
Plate discipline and pitch recognition is still an area of weakness for Hedges, but he has above-average power and, with a few mechanical tweaks, should turn into an average hitter.
This spring has given Hedges limited exposure with the big league team, so it is hard to make a fair assessment of him. He still has the highest ceiling of any catcher in the minors right now.
San Francisco Giants: Kyle Crick, SP
Crick did not work with the big league team during spring training, which is not a huge shock considering he has not pitched above low class-A. The team is going to give him time to build up his arm and not wear down over the course of a long season.
So as we did with Dahl, while we can't give an actual evaluation of his performance this spring, we can talk about what Crick can do.
The Giants, as everyone knows, have developed a reputation as building great pitching staffs through the draft. Tim Lincecum, Matt Cain and Madison Bumgarner have been keys to their two title runs in the last three years.
They have even been able to use their power arms in the minors to acquire talent in hopes of making a postseason run like they did sending Zack Wheeler to the Mets for Carlos Beltran in 2011.
Crick is the latest power right-hander in the system with huge upside. He has plus fastball velocity right now with a hard, downer curveball that projects as a plus pitch. He needs to get more consistent with his release and find a workable third pitch, but he has the profile of a No. 2 starter.
Baltimore Orioles: Dylan Bundy, SP
4 G (1 GS), 8.0 IP, 1.13 ERA, 6 H, 1 ER, 6 BB, 5 K
Best performance: February 23 vs. Minnesota (1.0 IP, 2 H, 0 ER, 1 BB, 2 K)
Worst performance: March 9 vs. Boston (2.0 IP, 1 H, 1 R (0 ER), 2 BB, 1 K)
Bundy could—and looking at the Orioles rotation, probably should—make the team out of spring training. Even though he still needs to work on some things, most importantly with his offspeed stuff, there isn't much the 20-year-old has to accomplish in the minors.
But a little more seasoning never hurt. It also doesn't help that Bundy's velocity has been down a little bit this spring, though that could just be a function of getting into shape and not wanting to go all-out right away.
Pitchers don't come out of high school as polished as Bundy, but now it is on the Orioles to cut him loose. He was on a strict pitch count in 2012, that limited him to just 103.2 minor league innings. He didn't turn a lineup over three times in any game, which actually hindered his development more than protected him.
As long as the Orioles have a plan to not baby Bundy's golden right arm this season, he should see more time in the big leagues than the 1.2 innings he had at the end of last year.
Boston Red Sox: Xander Bogaerts, SS
5 G, .286/.375/.286, 1 Run, 1 RBI, 1 BB, 3 K
Best performance: March 24 vs. Philadelphia (1-for-1, 1 Run)
Worst performance: N/A
Bogaerts spent only a short amount of time with the Red Sox this spring, as he was part of the Netherlands team that made a surprise run to the semifinals of the World Baseball Classic. In a fun tidbit, he was joined on that team in the final game by Texas shortstop, and the top prospect for 2013, Jurickson Profar.
What makes Bogaerts so impressive is the way that he never gets overwhelmed by the stage he is on. With all the challenges the Red Sox have thrown at him, the 20-year-old shortstop has responded in resounding fashion.
At 19 years old last season, Bogaerts was one of the youngest players in high-A. All he did was hit .302, .378 and .505 in 104 games. That performance got him bumped up to Double-A at the end of the year, where he hit .326, .351 and .598 in 97 at-bats.
But what takes Bogaerts from the great hitter to great prospect is the increased chance that he will stay at shortstop. He does have a big frame that will likely expand as he gets older, but he shows great athleticism and should turn into at least an average defender.
Even though the bat would play anywhere, if you take Bogaerts' bat and put it at shortstop, you are talking about a potential MVP candidate.
New York Yankees: Gary Sanchez, C
3 G, .200/.200/.200, 2 K
Best performance: N/A
Worst performance: March 1 vs. Philadelphia (0-for-2, 2 K)
Sanchez has been an enigma for a long time, but the power-hitting catcher is starting to tap into all of his baseball skills and leave behind all the character flaws that have followed him around ever since the Yankees signed him.
While not exactly lighting the world on fire, thanks to just a handful of appearances this spring, there is no doubt that Sanchez offers the most upside of any Yankees prospect heading into 2013.
It is nice to be able to talk about baseball when it comes to Sanchez, because he is incredibly talented. He has a tremendous swing with a little hitch early but shifting his weight at the right time to drive the ball over the fence. He shows good pitch recognition already and should walk more as he matures.
Defensively, Sanchez has a very strong arm. As long as he can get more consistent with his release and his blocking and receiving continue to get better, he should at least be average behind the dish.
Catchers with big offensive ceilings are fun to watch, so pay close attention to Sanchez in 2013 when he returns to high-A with a chance to move up to Double-A later this season.
Grade: C+ (Just not enough of a sample to judge)
Tampa Bay Rays: Wil Myers, OF
17 G, .286/.333/.429, 3 2B, 1 3B, 1 RBI, 4 Runs, 3 BB, 10 K
Best performance: March 2 vs. Minnesota (1-for-2, 3B, 1 K)
Worst performance: March 15 vs. Philadelphia (0-for-4, 2 K)
Even though he is good enough to start in the big leagues right now, Tampa Bay sent Wil Myers down to Triple-A to start the season, likely as a way to delay his arbitration clock.
Regardless of when he gets the call, Myers will be a staple of the Rays' lineup for years to come. He has quick hands that explode through the zone, allowing him to tap into that plus-plus power he showed off last season (37 home runs, .600 slugging percentage).
This spring was a way for Myers to just introduce himself to his new team, and give them a glimpse of what's to come. He didn't show much power this spring with just four extra-base hits in 35 at-bats, but I wouldn't be too concerned about that.
All that has to be asked is when the Rays decide to call him up. An injury could force their hand earlier, but I would venture a guess at the end of May or beginning of June. Don't be shocked to see him start hitting in the middle of the lineup around Evan Longoria and Ben Zobrist.
Toronto Blue Jays: Aaron Sanchez, SP
Sanchez is another young player who has been kept hidden this spring by his team. The Blue Jays have been very cautious with the right-hander, as he only threw 90.1 innings last season at low-A Lansing.
When the Blue Jays were wheeling and dealing this offseason, Sanchez was the one player who was not going to be included in any trade. Considering the stuff he shows right now, as well as his upside, you can understand why.
It is not everyday that a team comes across a 20-year-old with a plus-plus fastball and plus curveball. Sanchez also throws a changeup that is still developing but projects to be at least an average offering.
Oh, by the way, Sanchez is 6'4" and currently weighs 190 pounds, but that will likely change as his frame fills out and he begins to take shape of a prototypical right-handed workhorse.
The one big area of concern right now is command and control. Sanchez, as good as his stuff is, has walked 5.0 hitters per nine innings in three minor league seasons (5.1 last season). The upside is that of a No. 1 starter, but Sanchez will have to refine his command if he wants to get there.
But we are still talking about a pitcher who doesn't turn 21 until July. There is time for him to put things together before you lower that ceiling.
Chicago White Sox: Courtney Hawkins, OF
After showing off his athletic prowess by doing a backflip on MLB Network last June when the White Sox drafted him, Hawkins actually had to go on the field and show he could translate his tools to the field.
He played in 59 games last season and showed some good things that made him a first-round pick, as well as some things you would expect from a raw high school player who is years away from "The Show."
As far as ceilings go, Hawkins is a rare commodity in Chicago's farm system because he actually has one. Already possessing a huge 6'3", 220-pound frame and tremendous bat speed, he has the potential to be an impact right fielder at his peak.
The things that Hawkins has to work on are plate discipline and pitch recognition, as he goes up there hacking at anything remotely close to the strike zone. His defense in right field should be solid, as he has a plus arm and good range for someone his size.
Hawkins is the kind of player the White Sox farm system desperately needed, even if it is going to take a long time before the team is able to reap some of those rewards.
Cleveland Indians: Francisco Lindor, SS
10 G, .292/.320/.417, 1 2B, 1 3B, 1 RBI, 2 Runs, 1 SB, 1 BB, 2 K
Best performance:March 23 vs. Seattle (3-for-5, 1 3B, 1 RBI, 1 Run)
Worst performance: March 20 vs. Los Angeles (0-for-2)
Following a successful debut season at low-A Lake County, Lindor has been holding his own in big league camp this spring. He is a 19-year-old who plays the game well beyond his years and is incredibly mature.
It also helps that Lindor is wildly talented at shortstop. Even this spring, he continues to show why the Indians made him the eighth overall pick in the 2011 draft. His actions at shortstop are very impressive, as he always puts himself in good position to make every play, shows plus range and has smooth throwing mechanics that make his plus arm look so good.
Offensively, his ceiling is very high, as Lindor had a 78-61 strikeout-to-walk ratio in a full-season league as an 18-year-old in 2011. He doesn't have a lot of home run power because of his small frame and compact swing, but there are doubles and triples to be found in there.
Spring training has given a small glimpse of what Lindor is capable of, even at 19. He will start the season at high-A Kinston.
Detroit Tigers: Nick Castellanos, 3B/OF
15 G, .360/.484/.560, 2 2B, 1 HR, 6 RBI, 5 Runs, 1 SB, 6 BB, 4 K
Best performance: February 24 vs. Philadelphia (2-for-4, 1 HR, 2 RBI, 2 Runs, 1 BB, 1 K)
Worst performance: March 3 vs. Atlanta (0-for-4, 1 K)
It seems that no matter where you put Castellanos, whether in the minors or spring training, he is going to hit. That is actually not a surprise, as he possesses one of the best swings in the minors. He gets the barrel through the zone very quickly and is starting to show some of his raw power in games.
As a third baseman, Castellanos has the chance to be a star. He is not the best defender, though, he has gotten better at reacting to the ball off the bat and his arm strength is a plus.
What the Tigers are (stupidly) doing is trying him in a corner outfield spot since Miguel Cabrera is entrenched at third base, despite the fact he can't play the position. So Castellanos' bat has to be truly special to remain an elite prospect.
Castellanos does project to be a good hitter for average, but with his power ceiling potentially falling in the 15-20 range, he doesn't look as strong as he would playing even average defense at third base.
Kansas City Royals: Kyle Zimmer, SP
In the midst of the Royals compiling what we thought could be one of the best farm systems in baseball history two years ago, the one thing they have been unable to find is a top-of-the-rotation starting pitcher.
That is one of the reasons the team decided to trade top prospect Wil Myers to Tampa Bay in order to acquire James Shields and Wade Davis this offseason.
However, all the Royals had to do was look down on the farm to find the starting pitcher they have been desperate to find. Kyle Zimmer was the No. 4 pick in last year's draft and could move quickly through the system thanks to a plus-plus fastball, potentially plus curveball and average changeup.
It also helps that Zimmer has one of the best right-handed deliveries in the minors. He doesn't use a lot of movement and drives with his lower half to generate velocity as well as shows above-average command of his pitches.
Zimmer did get work late in spring training on the back fields in Arizona. According to Jason Parks of Baseball Prospectus, it was a bit of a mixed bag when Zimmer threw, but the raw stuff was impressive.
Kyle Zimmer was good today; found some barrels; plus-plus FB velo; big in the zone; hammer CB at 81 (easy plus). Looks the part. #Royals— Jason Parks (@ProfessorParks) March 25, 2013
There are so few starting pitching prospects in Kansas City's system right now, so the team has to turn Zimmer into the ace he has the potential to become. Easier said than done, sure, but he is off to a promising start.
Minnesota Twins: Miguel Sano, 3B
2 G, .300/.300/.300, 1 RBI, 2 Runs, 1 K
Best performance: March 21 vs. New York Yankees (2-for-5, 1 Run, 1 K)
Worst performance: N/A
It should be pointed out that the battle between Sano and Byron Buxton, last year's No. 2 overall pick, for the top spot in the Twins organization is incredibly close.
That said, Sano gets the slightest of edges because he is closer to the big leagues and has shown his skills in minor league action.
And when Sano steps to the plate, you take notice. I saw him once last year, and he had the hardest hit ball I have ever seen, squaring up a fastball and blasting it into the left-field corner for a double. He has an incredible hit tool with tremendous, easy power.
The two things that have been questioned about Sano are his body—he is just 19 years old and already 6'3", 195 pounds—and his ability to make enough contact to show off that power.
Sano is a big kid and his body will continue to fill out, but he looks like he might be able to stay at third base or—in a worst-case scenario—move over to first, where his bat will play just fine.
There is still a lot of swing-and-miss in Sano's game right now, as he struck out 144 times in 457 at-bats last year. But his approach and pitch recognition looked a lot better. He walked a career-high 80 times, 33 more than his total the previous two years combined.
Houston Astros: Jonathan Singleton, 1B
5 G, .300/.417/1.100, 1 3B, 2 HR, 6 RBI, 4 Runs, 2 BB, 3 K
Best performance: March 28 vs. Detroit (2-for-3, 2 HR, 3 RBI, 3 Runs, 1 BB)
Worst performance: M arch 27 vs. New York Mets (0-for-4, 2 K)
This has to be a difficult spring for Singleton. The 21-year-old first baseman would have been in line for a big league job with the Astros close to the All-Star break, but a 50-game suspension for a failed drug test handed down last November has delayed his clock.
Singleton has played sparingly this spring with minimal results. It is good that he is out on the field and getting reps against some top-tier competition, since it will keep him fresh as he waits to re-join his team.
Blessed with plus power, a balanced, easy swing and a much-improved approach, Singleton will be an impact bat for the Astros eventually. Unfortunately he might have to wait until September or 2014 to start showing off.
Los Angeles Angels: Kaleb Cowart, 3B
12 G, .348/.346/.522, 2 2B, 1 3B, 8 RBI, 4 Runs, 1 BB, 2 K
Best performance: March 27 vs. Texas (2-for-2, 1 3B, 2 RBI, 1 Run)
Worst performance: March 2 vs. Milwaukee (0-for-4)
In a system that has been depleted thanks to graduations, trades and loss of draft picks due to free-agent signings, Cowart is currently the one hope the Angels have to add impact talent in the future. He is still a few years away, having just completed a season between low-A and high-A.
The Angels gave Cowart the opportunity to work with the big league team this spring, and he performed admirably. He often came into games as a replacement, going up against second-tier big leaguers or minor leaguers, but a 20-year-old who was able to hit .322, .346 and.522 is a good sign.
A strong spring will give Cowart a leg up when he makes the jump to Double-A this season. He doesn't have star potential, but a solid defender at third base with a patient approach who can hit 20 home runs is a very good everyday player.
Oakland Athletics: Addison Russell, SS
6 G, .250/.294/.313, 1 2B, 2 RBI, 2 Runs, 1 SB, 1 BB, 5 K
Best performance: February 26 vs. Arizona (2-for-3, 1 RBI)
Worst performance: March 9 vs. Texas (0-for-4, 1 K)
Russell is quickly turning into one of my personal favorite prospects. Coming out of the draft last year, we all knew that he could hit. His bat speed, thanks to incredible hands and ability to square up pitches, makes him a potential monster on offense with 25-30 home runs and 30 stolen bases at his peak.
What has really swayed me in the last year is his work ethic, and subsequently, with improving odds, Russell will be able to stay at shortstop.
Even in a handful of spring games this year, you can see that he is working to stay fit and keep his range for the position. He has more than enough arm and instincts to stay there, so as long as his body cooperates, he will be one of the best prospects in baseball this year.
Russell played at three different levels as an 18-year-old last season. Don't be surprised if he is a fast-mover, like a mid-2014 debut, through the A's system.
Seattle Mariners: Taijuan Walker, SP
4 G, 1-0, 7.0 IP, 5.14 ERA, 7 H, 4 ER, 1 HR, 5 BB, 4 K
Best performance: February 27 vs. Cleveland (2.0 IP, 0 H, 1 BB, 2 K)
Worst performance: March 4 vs. Colorado (2.0 IP, 4 H, 3 ER, 1 HR, 3 BB, 1 K)
Even though Walker doesn't generate the kind of hype in casual circles that fellow big-time right-handers Gerrit Cole and Dylan Bundy do, Seattle's top prospect has the makings of a pitcher who can easily stand along side them.
If you look at his rather pedestrian 4.69 ERA in Double-A last season or even his 5.14 mark in seven spring innings, you might wonder what the hype is all about. Then you realize he pitched most of 2012 in Double-A as a 19-year-old.
On his best days, Walker will bring a plus-plus fastball, plus curveball and changeup. He still needs to work on commanding the fastball, but he is slowly making progress and has the makings of a No. 1 workhorse with Cy Young potential.
An average spring doesn't do anything to sway that opinion, though it will be interesting to see how he handles the move to Triple-A this season.
Texas Rangers: Jurickson Profar, SS
22 G, .229/.327/.292, 1 2B, 1 3B, 5 RBI, 7 Runs, 1 SB, 7 BB, 12 K
Best performance: March 10 vs. Cleveland (2-for-4, 2 RBI, 2 K)
Worst performance: March 7 vs. Los Angeles Dodgers (0-for-3, 1 K)
What better way to end the list than with the best prospect in baseball?
Profar had an inconsistent spring, though he did show the plate-discipline and pitch-recognition that have made him so highly regarded at just 20 years old. His defense continues to impress, as his instincts help his already-plus tools play even better in the field.
For most players of Profar's talent, he would have started the season in the big leagues. But since the Rangers already have All-Stars at second base, shortstop and third base, the young stud will have to bide his time in Triple-A until the team figures out what to do with him.
The high strikeout total would feel alarming, if it wasn't for the fact he also walked seven times and really just tried to find himself as he tried to earn an everyday job this spring. He will be fine. The Rangers are ridiculously loaded with shortstop talent and big things are coming.
For more prospect talk leading up to the season, or anything else baseball, feel free to hit me up on Twitter.