Every MLB Team's Top Prospect Who Won't Live Up to Expectations
Christian Petersen/Getty Images
Prospects are the best and worst part of baseball. The hope that they can inspire for the future can be undone in the blink of an eye, leaving a franchise scrambling to figure a lot of things out.
By their very definition, prospects are not guaranteed anything. As long as there has been a farm system in baseball, even the best players have failed moving up the ladder and less-heralded players can surpass the most optimistic expectations.
Looking where baseball is at right now, and the current crop of top prospects in all 30 farm systems, the game has never been more fun and exciting than it is now.
Two common terms that you will hear when it comes to prospect evaluation are "floor" and "ceiling." Ceiling is the best and most optimistic outcome for that player, while floor is the most likely outcome.
For instance, Texas' Jurickson Profar and St. Louis' Oscar Taveras, the top two position player prospects in baseball right now, have MVP-level ceilings and floors of everyday regulars. The odds of both reaching that ceiling in their respective career is incredibly unlikely, but they have the talent to get there.
As we look at each team's system at the start of 2013, here are the players--one from all 30 teams--who will have the most difficulty living up to their expectations.
Note: All stats courtesy of Baseball-Reference unless otherwise noted. Prospect status is based on rookie eligibility heading into the season, so some players listed will already be in the big leagues.
Atlanta Braves: Julio Teheran, RHP
Once regarded as a future ace, Julio Teheran has really struggled to develop his breaking ball and command.
Rob Carr/Getty Images
No. 2 starter with plus fastball, plus-plus changeup, average curveball and above-average command.
Why Teheran won't live up to expectations
Julio Teheran went from being the best right-handed pitching prospect in baseball prior to the 2011 season to a player with a cloudy future in just two years.
The problems have been vast for Teheran, but the biggest one is the lack of development on his breaking ball. He has always had two plus pitches and his curveball looked like it could at least be a serviceable offering, it just hasn't come along as expected.
Another issue facing Teheran has been with his command. He has always thrown more than enough strikes to be effective--it is the quality of the strikes that became the problem. His fastball was up in the zone last year more than ever, allowing hitters to hit it in the air and he gave up 18 home runs.
A strong spring in 2013 made the Braves comfortable enough to make Teheran the No. 5 starter. Unfortunately his performance early on has been a lot more of the same, with 14 hits and three home runs allowed in 11 innings.
Miami Marlins: Jake Marisnick, OF
Acquired from Toronto in the blockbuster deal last November, Jake Marisnick is a great talent with a lot of holes to fill.
All-Star center fielder with at least 20 homers and 15 steals per season
Why Marisnick won't live up to expectations
As one of the key pieces in the blockbuster deal the Marlins made with Toronto in the offseason, Jake Marisnick was going to be under an even bigger microscope. He came into his own two years ago at Low-A Lansing, hitting .320/.392/.496 and 14 home runs in 462 at-bats.
Marisnick, 22, has a big frame and tremendous athleticism, but he also tries to hit for power more than making contact. He struggled adjusting to advanced pitching in 55 games at Double-A in 2012, putting up a .233/.286/.336 line in 223 at-bats.
More tools than production right now, Marisnick could turn into a four-tool player with enough contact skills to tap into his power with a low average. But his swing has so much going on that it will be difficult to put good wood on the ball against better velocity and advanced breaking balls.
New York Mets: Jeurys Familia, RHP
Blessed with an incredible arm, Jeurys Familia so rarely has an idea where the ball is going out of his hand.
Marc Serota/Getty Images
Dominant late-inning reliever with a hard fastball and sharp slider
Why Familia won't live up to expectations
The Mets rode Jeurys Familia in the starting rotation as long as they could, but a violent delivery and control problems prompted a move to the bullpen in his brief big league call-up last season and he has stayed in that role to start 2013.
Just looking at the raw stuff, Familia has what it takes to be a closer or high-leverage reliever. He has a hard mid 90s fastball and a sharp slider with late break that can miss bats.
The problem comes when Familia actually throws the ball. His delivery is all about arm speed, as he takes a short stride to the plate and doesn't use his powerful lower half to generate velocity. He doesn't finish pitches well, causing the ball to sail on him and leads to the wildness.
Anytime you have a pitcher with an arm as good as Familia, you are going to get every opportunity to succeed. But when you can't throw strikes consistently, it is hard for a manager to trust you in a close-game situation.
Philadelphia Phillies: Tommy Joseph, C/1B
Unless Tommy Joseph proves he can stay behind the plate, it is hard to see him being an everyday regular.
Al Messerschmidt/Getty Images
Above-average regular with power
Why Joseph won't live up to expectations
When the Philadelphia Phillies acquired Tommy Joseph in the Hunter Pence trade last July, the hope was that he could stick at catcher and provide enough power to justify the fact he won't hit for average or get on base.
It is a good idea, at least in theory, but Joseph doesn't seem likely to remain behind the plate because his defense is sketchy. He has a strong, accurate throwing arm--as evidenced by the fact he has thrown out 36 percent of base-stealers in four minor league seasons.
Joseph has issues when it comes to moving around behind the plate and blocking balls in the dirt. He also doesn't have enough ability or pitch recognition to barrel the ball enough to drive it into the gap and over the fence.
Washington Nationals: Matt Purke, LHP
Courtesy of MLB Prospect Portal
No. 4 starter with above-average fastball and slider
Why Purke won't live up to expectations
Matt Purke's status has already dropped precipitously in the last three years, when he went from one of the top college pitchers in the country with a fastball that touched the mid 90s and a plus slider at Rice to being unable to break 90 on the gun.
The Nationals took him in the third round of the 2011 draft, but he signed late, battled shoulder problems in college and didn't debut until last season. He was only able to start three games before being shutdown with more arm problems that required surgery in August.
It is hard to even say what Purke's floor is because we have no idea what he is right now. He hasn't thrown in a game this season, his stuff was diminished the few times he took the mound last year and it will take time to build his arm back up.
Hopefully the surgery will help Purke find some of the velocity he lost during his last year at Rice, but there are so many things we don't know--and what we did know looked nothing like a big league-caliber pitcher.
Chicago Cubs: Brett Jackson, OF
Brett Jackson's inability to make contact will prevent him from ever reaching his potential.
Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images
All-Star outfielder with 20-20 potential
Why Jackson won't live up to expectations
Cubs fans got their first glimpse of Jackson in the big leagues last season and it wasn't the debut anyone wanted to see. Always known for swinging and missing, the 24-year-old struck out 59 times in 120 at-bats.
That has been the story of Jackson coming up through the system. For all the good things he can do on the field--hit for power, steal bases, play solid defense in center field--the strikeouts make him look more like a backup or Four-A player than big league starter.
Jackson worked this winter to change his swing in an effort to reduce the strikeouts and make more contact. Even though it is still very early, the results aren't showing in games as he has 15 punch outs in 41 at-bats with Iowa.
At this point, it would be foolish to expect that Jackson will hit enough to play everyday in the big leagues.
Cincinnati Reds: Billy Hamilton, SS/OF
Billy Hamilton's electrifying speed can change games, but he has to prove he can hit to big an everyday player.
Christian Petersen/Getty Images
Dynamic leadoff hitter and center fielder with as many steals as he wants
Why Hamilton won't live up to expectations
There may not be a player in the minors who generates more buzz than Billy Hamilton because of his ability to change the game with his legs. He set a new minor league record with 155 stolen bases in 2012--the second straight year he has broken the century mark in steals.
Hamilton is regarded the fastest player in baseball history. There are jokes that on the 20-80 scouting scale, his speed registers as a 90.
But as great as the speed is, the old saying goes that you can't steal first base. Hamilton has added some muscle to his frame over the last two years, but he is not a physical guy. He is very lean and doesn't project to hit for much power.
Hamilton is so quick that he can get on base good enough just by hitting the ball to the left side of the infield, but big league pitching can expose players with just one tool, especially when that tool is speed.
Moving Hamilton to center field was the right call for the Reds, because his footwork and arm at shortstop were not going to work. His bat isn't great, though there is some bat speed that will allow him to drive the ball into the gap.
Unless he does that consistently when the Reds do bring him up, Hamilton is really going to struggle using just his legs.
Milwaukee Brewers: Tyler Thornburg, RHP
Lacking overpowering stuff and plane on his fastball, Tyler Thornburg could be too homer-prone to stick in the big leagues.
Rich Schultz/Getty Images
Mid-rotation innings eater
Why Thornburg won't live up to expecations
The biggest thing standing in Tyler Thornburg's way is not something he has any control over: height. He is listed at just 5'11", according to MiLB.com.
Due to Thornburg's small stature, there is no plane on his fastball and that makes him incredibly homer-prone. The Brewers used him in eight games at the major league level last year covering 22 innings and he gave up eight home runs.
Even though he has above-average velocity on his fastball, it is very straight and stays up in the zone. It becomes catnip for big league hitters. He does have a good changeup that will work against lefties, but it should be in a limited capacity.
Considering how many problems Milwaukee has in the rotation right now, keeping Thornburg a starter for as long as possible seems logical. But it will not likely lead to much success if/when the call comes.
Pittsburgh Pirates: Josh Bell, OF
Injuries have robbed Josh Bell of precious playing time, but his ceiling still remains very high. Courtesy of Mark Olson, MiLB.com
Offensive monster in right field
Why Bell won't live up to expectations
The Pittsburgh Pirates loved Josh Bell so much when they drafted him in 2011 that they gave him a record $5 million signing bonus as the first pick in the second round. Considering his offensive profile--plus power, plus bat speed, advanced approach--it would be a paltry sum compared to what you would have to pay a free agent.
But 2012 was a lost season for Bell, who played in just 15 games after having knee surgery in April and had issues with swelling after that prevented him from playing again.
This will be the first full season for the 20-year-old as he tries to re-establish his value. Bell is still young enough to profile as a potential All-Star outfielder, but he is so far behind the eight ball after missing a year that the climb will be steep.
St. Louis Cardinals: Carlos Martinez, RHP
Boasting one of the easiest deliveries in the minors, Carlos Martinez needs to refine command to stay in the starting rotation with St. Louis.
Jeff Gross/Getty Images
Top-of-the-rotation starter with three plus pitches
Why Martinez won't live up to expectations
Carlos Martinez is one of my personal favorite pitchers to watch. He has one of the easiest deliveries in the minors, with tremendous arm speed and a big fastball that has great movement out of his hand.
Last year was a huge step in the right direction as his control improved (32 walks in 104.1 innings) and the results better reflected the power stuff.
But it is also very easy to be skittish on Martinez's upside, because his command and ability to repeat his delivery are lacking. He throws too many pitches in the middle and upper part of the plate, giving hitters something they can elevate.
As far as off-speed stuff goes, Martinez has not yet found the consistency with his changeup and breaking ball to get advanced hitters out enough to profile as a starter. At the very least, he should be able to pitch in the back of a bullpen as a fastball-curveball reliever.
It would be nice to see Martinez refine his command and the off-speed stuff to get more consistent so the Cardinals can put him in a loaded rotation that will include Adam Wainwright, Shelby Miller, Lance Lynn and Michael Wacha.
Arizona Diamondbacks: Matt Davidson, 3B
Matt Davidson can drive the ball but he doesn't make enough contact or have a good enough approach to do it consistently.
Christian Petersen/Getty Images
Above-average regular with 20-plus home runs and a good on-base percentage
Why Davidson won't reach his ceiling
Matt Davidson is currently a man without a spot in Arizona's lineup, as the team acquired Martin Prado to man third base for the next four years. Prado is versatile enough to play in the outfield if the Diamondbacks want him to, but Davidson doesn't really fit into their new model.
The Diamondbacks want players who are going to make contact, even if it is at the expense of driving the ball over the fence. Davidson is the kind of player who is going to strikeout a lot and hit 20-25 home runs.
As much as I love Davidson's power potential and sharp eye at the plate, it is easy to worry about a player who has struck out in 27.2 percent of his at-bats in the minors. His ability to walk will keep his on-base percentage respectable, but he won't hit enough to play a corner infield position everyday.
Colorado Rockies: Nolan Arenado, 3B
Nolan Arenado has a lot of things to work on if he wants to get his prospect value back in 2013 following a down year last season.
Christian Petersen/Getty Images
Above-average offensive-minded third baseman
Why Arenado won't live up to expectations
There are few prospects in the minors as divisive as Arenado. Those that like his upside and potential, really like what they see. He looks the part of a very good hitter, with the ability to hit for a high average (.280-.290) with 20 home runs and above-average defense at third base.
Others will point out that Arenado's head gets in the way of his ability on the field too much. For instance, Rockies general manager Dan O'Dowd caused a stir last year when he said that Arenado's "maturity level has not yet reached his talent level." (via Denver Post)
Considering Arenado's age--he just turned 22 on April 16--keeping a level head isn't necessarily the worst thing in the world right now. It is just alarming to see a general manager say something like that about one of his own players in a public forum.
You can tell a lot about a player when things aren't going exactly as planned. Arenado has a lot of work to do in order to keep his energy and intensity level up in good times and bad.
Los Angeles Dodgers: Chris Reed, LHP
Poor command and lack of a third pitch will cripple Chris Reed on his way through the Dodgers' system. Courtesy of Rancho Cucamonga Quakes (h/t MiLB.com).
No. 3 starter who generates a ton of groundballs
Why Reed won't reach his ceiling
The Dodgers drafted Reed out of Stanford at a time when they were in the financial hell from the Frank McCourt days, leading some to speculate that Reed was just taken because he would be a cheap sign.
Instead, the left-hander converted to the starting rotation in his first full season and showed three average or better pitches, including a sinker that has late diving action in the zone and a sharp slider that generates weak contact.
Reed's third pitch, a changeup, doesn't have enough separation from his fastball or movement to get right-handed hitters out. He also pitches very low to the ground, which causes his fastball and slider to flatten out and hitters can elevate them.
If the Dodgers can work with Reed on using his height to get leverage and plane on his pitches, he will reach his ceiling. Until then, odds are against it.
San Diego Padres: Cory Spangenberg, 2B
A first-round pick in 2011, Cory Spangenberg can fly down the first base line. He just can't do much else with the bat. Courtesy of Paul R. Gierhart, MiLB.com
Contact-oriented No. 2 hitter with blazing speed
Why Spangenberg won't reach his ceiling
Like Billy Hamilton, though not as fast, Cory Spangenberg is a player whose game depends on contact and his ability to get down the line in a hurry. There is nothing wrong with having a player like that, but having speed as your primary weapon is a dangerous proposition.
Spangenberg does have good bat speed and a better ability to drive the ball all over the field than Hamilton. He can also get caught sitting on fastballs and have advanced off-speed stuff fool him.
As a second baseman, you have to really be able to hit to stick in the big leagues. Spangenberg has some offensive potential but there isn't enough there right now to make him an everyday regular with the Padres.
San Francisco Giants: Gary Brown, OF
After looking like a future leadoff man two years ago, Gary Brown's stock has tumbled due to a poor 2012 and no real offensive upside.
Christian Petersen/Getty Images
High-average speedster who can hit at the top of a lineup with plus defense in center field
Why Brown won't reach his ceiling
Gary Brown has been penciled into the leadoff spot for the San Francisco Giants basically since he was drafted out of Cal State Fullerton with the 24th pick in 2010. But the bloom has come off the rose as he has advanced up the ladder.
Last year with Double-A Richmond, Brown hit .279/.347/.385 in 134 games. Very respectable stats, sure, but for a 23-year-old college player not far from the big leagues, it left a lot to be desired.
First, Brown's swing is not very good. He has no load whatsoever, so he can't drive the ball into the gap and take advantage of his good speed. He has a good enough approach, but doesn't work counts and walk enough to keep his on-base percentage at a respectable rate.
Then there is his defense. Brown has good range in center field thanks to his speed, but he is not an elite defender. His arm is adequate and can handle the position. Unless his bat improves drastically, he will have to be a special defender to warrant being an everyday player.
Baltimore Orioles: Jonathan Schoop, SS/3B
Jonathan Schoop is loaded with tools but not enough refinement right now.
Koji Watanabe/Getty Images
Above-average defensive third baseman with power
Why Schoop won't reach his ceiling
Jonathan Schoop is an immensely talented player, one who warranted the move to Double-A last season at the age of 20. But the problems that have plagued him throughout his minor league career still persist today.
Even though there is above-average or better power in his bat, Schoop doesn't have great bat speed and his swing is long to the point where good velocity is going to give him problems. When he does make contact, it is fun to watch him hit.
Schoop does have a good approach at the plate, but he struggles to adjust when facing off-speed stuff. If he develops as expected, a .250 average with 20-plus homers will be his peak.
The Orioles have Schoop playing shortstop now that Manny Machado is in the big leagues, though his lack of range at the position will eventually force a move to third base. Schoop has to prove he can handle good fastballs and off-speed pitches to profile as an everyday player at the hot corner.
Boston Red Sox: Bryce Brentz, OF
Bryce Brentz has plenty of power, as well as a lot of swing-and-miss to his game.
Derick Hingle-USA TODAY Sports
Power-hitting everyday right fielder
Why Brentz won't reach his ceiling
There is one thing that Bryce Brentz does really well that makes it impossible to completely give up on him: Hit for power. He has slugged .574 and .465 in the last two seasons.
But Brentz also has holes in his swing that can--and have--been exploited by pitchers with advanced off-speed stuff. He starts his swing standing almost completely upright and because he has an uppercut on top of it, he strikes out a lot (251 times in 951 at-bats the last two years).
As a defensive player, Brentz has more than enough arm strength to play right field. That gives him two plus tools to work with, but the hit tool and inability to lay off pitches out of the zone are going to prevent him from reaching his full ceiling.
We are in an age where big power potential is a commodity, so don't be shocked to see Brentz float around the big leagues for a long time just because he can really drive the ball when he connects.
New York Yankees: Jose Campos, RHP
Jose Campos was the other piece in the Jesus Montero-Michael Pineda deal. Courtesy of Shari Sommerfeld, MiLB.com
No. 2 starter with three above-average or better pitches
Why Campos won't reach his ceiling
Right now we don't know what Campos is, because he missed virtually all of the 2012 season. He pitched just 25 innings due to what the Yankees called elbow inflammation.
ESPN's Keith Law (Insider subscription required) caught one of his starts in Charleston and basically said that, between the diminished stuff and arm-heavy delivery, Campos doesn't look like anything more than a reliever.
That was just one outing early in the season, but it doesn't paint a rosy picture. Campos needs to find his old fastball velocity, which was in the 92-95 range, or else he is going to turn into a punching bag.
You hesitate to say that 20-year-old is done, because there are so many ways to reinvent yourself--or hope the velocity comes back--but things do not look good right now for Campos.
Tampa Bay Rays: Chris Archer, RHP
Chris Archer has some of the most exciting stuff in baseball, as well as a serious lack of control.
J. Meric/Getty Images
Overpowering No. 2 starter with a dominant fastball-slider combination
Why Archer won't reach his ceiling
When he is on top of his game, there might not be a more entertaining pitcher to watch than Chris Archer. He pitched in six games with Tampa Bay last season, posting a 4.66 ERA and striking out 36 in 29 innings.
Because the Rays have all sorts of pitching depth, Archer was pushed back down to Triple-A to start the season, but he isn't far away from contributing in the big leagues. The only question is, in what role?
If you are an optimist, Archer is a no-doubt starter with top-of-the-rotation stuff. His fastball is an easy plus pitch and he complements it beautifully with a slider that flashes plus-plus. His delivery is clean and fluid, as he has a lightning-quick arm and uses his lower half to generate power.
All of this sounds great, then you get into the command and control issues. Archer has walked 5.0 hitters/9 IP in his minor league career. He has averaged 71 free passes per season the last three years.
It is because of Archer's inability to throw strikes consistently that he is both not in the big leagues right now and will likely project more as a late-inning reliever when the Rays do bring him up for good.
But, man oh man, if he can put a few things together, watch out.
Toronto Blue Jays: John Stilson, RHP
A poor delivery and inconsistent results make John Stilson look more like a bullpen arm than mid-rotation starter. Courtesy of Jim Goins, MiLB.com
No. 3 starter with two above-average pitches
Why Stilson won't reach his ceiling
Toronto has made a habit of taking high-ceiling players in the early rounds of the draft, but Stilson was one of the few polished college arms taken by this franchise recently. He has a future in the big leagues, though it is unclear where that will be.
As a starter, Stilson isn't likely to have sustained success. Despite having the upside of a mid-rotation starter, his violent arm action will likely cause problems if he is forced to throw 100 pitches every five days.
Stilson also has a crossfire delivery that leads to inconsistent command and control. He can hide the ball really well, which helps him rack up strikeouts, but until he starts throwing consistent quality strikes, it is hard to envision him in more than a bullpen role.
Perhaps the Blue Jays could split the difference and turn him into a long reliever who works 2-3 innings at a time.
Chicago White Sox: Trayce Thompson, OF
Trayce Thompson is one very few high-ceiling talents in Chicago's system.
Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports
Offensive-minded center fielder with 20 home runs
Why Thompson won't reach his ceiling
Trying to find real impact in the White Sox system is difficult, though it is getting better. One constant over the last few years has been Trayce Thompson, who does have the second-highest ceiling among Chicago farmhands.
As far as raw tools go, Thompson has above-average power and plus speed. He is a solid defender in center field, as well.
Translating those tools on the field hasn't really been a problem, as Thompson has hit at least 24 home runs in each of the last two years.
His biggest problem is an ability--or lack thereof--to make consistent contact. Thompson has struck out at least 166 times in the last two seasons. He doesn't walk enough to get on base at a good enough clip to sustain the low average that will come along with that many punchouts.
Cleveland Indians: Ronny Rodriguez, SS/3B
Ronny Rodriguez is one of many high-ceiling shortstops the Indians have to build around. Courtesy of Ken Inness, MiLB.com
Why Rodriguez won't reach his ceiling
One of the many middle infielders Cleveland has added to its system in recent years, Rodriguez has some of the best raw power in the system. He hit 19 home runs and slugged .452 as a 20-year-old in High-A last year.
Boasting plus arm strength and solid range at shortstop, he could be an above-average defender at shortstop but sloppy mistakes--as evidenced by his 28 errors at the position last year--could push him to second or third.
As nice as Rodriguez's power would be at shortstop, he has little discipline at the plate and poor pitch-recognition skills that severely limit his ability to hit for average or get on base. Unless you can consistently put the ball in play, it is hard to hit for power.
If/when Rodriguez eventually does move off shortstop, it will put even more pressure on his bat. Until there is some evidence that he can lay off a breaking ball out of the zone, Rodriguez faces an uphill climb to the big leagues.
Detroit Tigers: Bruce Rondon, RHP
Bruce Rondon has one of the best fastballs you will ever see. He also has no idea where things are going.
Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports
Shutdown closer with one of the best fastballs in baseball
Why Rondon won't reach his ceiling
It seemed like a given before spring training that Detroit would name Bruce Rondon the closer to start the season. He had just finished a successful season in 2012, where he moved up three levels, recorded 29 saves and struck out 66 batters in 53 innings.
Rondon fits the bill of the prototypical closer, at least in stuff. He has a true 80-grade fastball that has movement and will shatter bats in the big leagues. He complements it with a solid slider that at least gives him a weapon opponents have to respect.
Where Rondon falls short is with his delivery and ability to command any of his pitches. There is a lot of violence and moving parts during his wind-up and release, so much so that the ball just comes out of his hand hoping to find a piece of the plate.
You can get away with hard stuff and little command in the minors, but big leaguers are going to layoff even the closest pitches. Rondon has to prove he can throw consistent, quality strikes before he becomes the dominant late-inning reliever for the Tigers he was pegged to be in February.
Kansas City Royals: Bubba Starling. OF
A conservative approach, as well as a slow start, have Bubba Starling detractors out in full force. Courtesy of Matt Burton, MiLB.com
Five-tool All-Star garnering some MVP votes at his peak
Why Starling won't reach his celing
Bubba Starling entered professional baseball with tremendous hype after being the No. 5 pick in the 2011 draft. He is from the midwest and instantly became a fan favorite with Royals fans.
But because he also played football in high school--and was good enough to have a scholarship offer to play quarterback at the University of Nebraska--Starling was incredibly raw and would need at least three or four years of development.
That became obvious when Starling was on the field last year, as the Royals held him back in rookie ball instead of trying to give him a full-season assignment. His slash line looks fine (.275/.371/.485) until you realize that he was old for the league (19) and struck out 70 times in 200 at-bats.
Nearly two years after he was drafted, Starling is still so far behind the eight ball compared to where other players taken were. Even Byron Buxton, last year's top high school player drafted by the Twins, got a full-season assignment this year. Buxton and Starling are both playing in the Midwest League (Low-A), but Buxton is 16 months younger.
There is no evidence that Starling has made any advancement to let his raw tools play up to the level everyone suggests he can.
Minnesota Twins: Aaron Hicks, OF
Aaron Hicks has already shown the world that the Twins promoted him to the big leagues too soon.
Hannah Foslien/Getty Images
Four-tool center fielder with a few All-Star appearances
Why Hicks won't reach his ceiling
As far as pure athletes go, Aaron Hicks is one of the best in a very good Minnesota system. He has speed, a solid hit tool, plus arm strength, defense and some decent pop in his bat.
Hicks is also a very slow learner. There is nothing wrong with that, as everyone develops at their own pace. He had to repeat Low-A in 2010 after scuffling at the level the previous year. The Twins aggressively pushed him to Double-A last year, despite looking lost at times with High-A Fort Myers in 2011.
There are so many things that Hicks does well in games already--his approach and pitch recognition are top notch, his speed on the bases and in center field serves him well--but getting him to put everything together against big league competition when he has flashed so many holes throughout his minor league career is disconcerting.
At his peak, Hicks could be a player who strikes out a lot, walks a bunch, steals bases and hits 8-10 home runs with solid defense in center field. That is a very good player, just not the four-tool star he can become.
Houston Astros: Jarred Cosart, RHP
Boasting a power fastball-curveball combination, Jarred Cosart has the talent to pitch in the back of a bullpen.
Al Messerschmidt/Getty Images
No. 2 starter with a fastball-curveball punch
Why Cosart won't reach his ceiling
Jarred Cosart was one of the key players Houston acquired from Philadelphia in the Hunter Pence trade two years ago--first baseman Jonathan Singleton is the other.
When Cosart is on, his stuff can be dominant. He has a big arm with a plus fastball and curveball that both explode out of his hand thanks to terrific arm speed. His fastball is tough to pick up because it moves so much before getting to the plate.
The stuff makes you fall in love with Cosart, but the command leaves you wanting a lot more. He will walk hitters, as the 3.3 walks/ 9 IP in the minors suggests, but the biggest problem is leaving pitches over the heart of the plate that can be squared up.
There is also a lot of effort to Cosart's delivery, which puts strain on his shoulder, to the point it would likely be better for him to pitch out of the bullpen. He has the stuff to be a closer or high-leverage pitcher.
Los Angeles Angels: Austin Wood, RHP
LA's Austin Wood is the most frustrating player to try and figure out. Courtesy of Stevie Pederson, Cedar Rapids Kernels
No. 2 starter with a ton of strikeouts
Why Wood won't reach his ceiling
Prospects don't come more frustrating than Austin Wood. He has an ideal frame to be a workhorse starter, at 6'4", 225 pounds. His arsenal is top notch, with a plus fastball and slider combination that he backs up with an inconsistent changeup.
What's not to love, right?
Well, like prospects will do, Wood has hit a development wall after just one full season in the minors. He really struggled to throw anything for strikes, racking up 72 walks in 128 innings, and when he did throw strikes, hitters were able to make plenty of solid contact because he leaves it over the heart of the plate.
Wood is one of those prospects who is going to get every opportunity in the world to succeed because of his size and stuff, but you have to be able to throw strikes at a consistent rate if you want to keep moving up the ladder.
Oakland Athletics: Grant Green, 2B/OF
Oakland's Grant Green should at least get a shot in the big leagues this season.
Jake Roth-USA TODAY Sports
Average offensive-minded second baseman
Why Green won't reach his ceiling
Grant Green has floated around the Oakland system for three years now as the team tried to figure out what position to put him at since he didn't have the arm or range to handle shortstop.
Now that Green is locked in at second base, where he should be fine with good instincts and a good arm for the position, his offensive game gets put under the microscope.
There is nothing wrong with Green's bat, as he has a compact line-drive stroke that should lead to plenty of doubles. He doesn't have a lot of power, so his value will be tied to his average and ability to get on base.
Green doesn't walk a lot, so he will have to hit for a high average to be an everyday player with the A's. I can see him playing everyday for the team, but actually doing it enough to reach his full potential seems like a bit of a stretch.
At 25 years old, Green has to force Oakland's hand sooner than later to prove he can be a starter in the big leagues.
Seattle Mariners: James Paxton, LHP
James Paxton has a good fastball and solid curveball, but he lacks refinement on a lot of things.
Christian Petersen/Getty Images
No. 2 starter with a lot of strikeouts from the left side
Why Paxton won't reach his ceiling
James Paxton followed up his breakout 2011 season, when he posted a 2.37 ERA and 131 strikeouts in 95.0 innings, with an inconsistent 2012 that exposed some of the flaws in his game.
A big, tall left-hander who can throw his fastball in the mid 90s and drops a hammer curveball is a valuable commodity in baseball. But this is an important season for him to figure out what his ultimate role will become.
Pitching the entire 2012 season at Double-A, Paxton struck out 110 in 106 innings and posted a 3.05 ERA. But he also walked 54 hitters because his delivery includes a long backswing that causes his arm to lose the release point.
It is not a crippling deficiency--in fact, the Mariners could work with him to fix it and his stock could shoot right back up--but until the time comes where Paxton either finds a way to work with his deliver or change a few things up to shorten his arm swing, he is going to struggle to throw consistent strikes.
Texas Rangers: Martin Perez, LHP
Sidelined to star the season, Martin Perez will be in the Rangers' rotation.
Ezra Shaw/Getty Images
No. 3 starter with three above-average pitches
Why Perez won't reach his ceiling
Martin Perez's ceiling has already changed once, from a top-of-the-rotation workhorse to that of a No. 3 starter, due to inconsistent results in the higher levels of the minors. It is important to note that, even though he has been on the prospect radar for three years, he is still just 22 years old.
Working with a plus fastball and changeup, as well as a solid curveball, Perez doesn't miss nearly as many bats as a left-handed pitcher with his stuff would suggest. He struck out a career-low 4.9/9 IP last season.
A big part of Perez's problems just seem to be mental, as he can look brilliant one inning and come back as a completely different pitcher the next. He just needs to start trusting his stuff and defense to make plays behind him.
Until Perez does that, and stops walking 4.0/9 IP, his stock is going to keep dropping. The Rangers have been aggressive with him throughout his career, so hopefully he can reward their faith and efforts.
If you want to talk more prospects, or anythng else baseball related, feel free to hit me up on Twitter.