Power Ranking All 30 Teams' Top Hitting Prospect

Ely Sussman@@MrElyminatorCorrespondent IMay 28, 2013

Power Ranking All 30 Teams' Top Hitting Prospect

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    To varying degrees, each MLB team is eager to see its top hitting prospect blossom into a contributor at the highest level. These power rankings arrange them by overall potential and likelihood of succeeding in the majors.

    A handful of individuals listed have major league experience already, though none have lost rookie eligibility yet. Once they reach 130 at-bats in a single season or 50 consecutive days on the active roster, they'll be replaced.

    Prospects performing well in the high minors at relatively young ages occupy most of the top spots.

     

    *All stats are accurate through the games of May 27, courtesy of MiLB.com and Baseball-Reference.com.

30. OF D.J. Davis (Toronto Blue Jays)

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    Current team: Low-A Vancouver Canadians.

    2013 stats: none.

    Anthony Gose exhausted his rookie eligibility on the injury-riddled 2012 Toronto Blue Jays. Travis d'Arnaud and Jake Marisnick were dealt to the New York Mets and Miami Marlins, respectively.

    By default, the label of "organization's top hitting prospect" falls to D.J. Davis, a 2012 draft pick whose season in the Northwest League doesn't begin until mid-June. He batted a .250/.355/.386 last year with 25 steals in only 60 contests.

    Forgive the brevity of the above video, but most longer clips chronicle his strikeouts. His 70 whiffs in 266 plate appearances suggest that his journey to the majors will be a long one.

29. C Christian Bethancourt (Atlanta Braves)

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    Current team: Double-A Mississippi Braves.

    2013 stats: .267/.286/.366, 1 HR, 11 RBI, 6 SB in 106 PA.

    Christian Bethancourt's 2013 batting line practically matches what he's done in five previous professional seasons. Signing the catcher at age 16 allowed the Atlanta Braves to move him through the organization gradually.

    However, this marks the first summer where his caught-stealing percentage had dropped below 30 percent. Considering that defense is his calling card, this cannot be ignored.

    The several weeks Bethancourt missed with a leg injury just reinforced his fragile reputation. He has only once played more than 100 games.

    There's little doubt that he'll have a long career in the majors. That said, despite all the offseason tinkering David O'Brien of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution mentions, Bethancourt won't be more than a backup unless he makes progress as a hitter.

28. SS Roman Quinn (Philadelphia Phillies)

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    Current team: Single-A Lakewood Blue Claws.

    2013 stats: .257/.342/.380, 4 HR, 15 RBI, 24 SB in 206 PA.

    So far in his career, Roman Quinn has averaged nearly one stolen base every other game. He doesn't mind drawing walks to get on.

    The 20-year-old switch-hitter is significantly better against lefties and somewhat susceptible to striking out. There's also not much to love about his fielding.

    The Philadelphia Phillies won't throw Jimmy Rollins to the curb until Quinn shows them more potential.

27. OF Courtney Hawkins (Chicago White Sox)

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    Current team: High-A Winston-Salem Dash.

    2013 stats: .177/.247/.456, 7 HR, 17 RBI, 3 SB in 89 PA.

    Mark Gonzales of the Chicago Tribune reports that Courtney Hawkins suffered a shoulder strain while attempting a diving catch on May 1. He hasn't returned to the field since.

    The Corpus Christi native is an awesome athlete, albeit a raw baseball player. He had already struck out 45 times in 2013 before landing on the disabled list.

    Hawkins could be an elite power hitter if he fills his 6'3" frame.

26. 1B Hunter Morris (Milwaukee Brewers)

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    Current team: Triple-A Nashville Sounds.

    2013 stats: .253/.335/.520,10 HR, 24 RBI in 170 PA.

    Hunter Morris didn't crack the Milwaukee Brewers Opening Day roster due to his spring training struggles. He blew a golden opportunity to take over at first base for a team that had lost Corey Hart and Mat Gamel to serious knee injuries.

    A 3-for-28 slump through the first week of the regular season suggests that Morris was still bummed out after underachieving.

    He owns a .276 batting average since then with nine home runs and 20 runs batted in. The overall numbers don't quite match what he accomplished at Double-A last season, but they're not far off, either.

    Whatever Morris lacks in range at first base, he makes up for with sure-handedness.

25. SS/2B Alen Hanson (Pittsburgh Pirates)

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    Current team: High-A Bradenton Marauders.

    2013 stats: .290/.345/.415, 1 HR, 20 RBI, 11 SB in 202 PA.

    Alen Hanson hasn't played anywhere besides shortstop in 2013, though it would hardly be surprising if he shifted to second base eventually to hide his unpredictable throwing arm.

    He posted a discouraging .907 fielding percentage last summer and is only slightly better so far in his age-20 campaign.

    He'll need to bulk up to be a more consistent power source, but the good contact skills already show. Hanson is a career .300 hitter since arriving in the pros.

    An ideal small-ball player, the switch-hitter bunts beautifully and steals bases frequently. He just needs to execute the latter with better efficiency.

24. OF Bubba Starling (Kansas City Royals)

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    Current team: Single-A Lexington Legends.

    2013 stats: .206/.293/.335, 4 HR, 20 RBI, 7 SB in 174 PA.

    If it seems that Bubba Starling has trouble making contact, it's because he does. Multi-sport stars coming out of high school traditionally suffer from that same weakness, but legitimately poor vision may be to blame in this instance.

    Starling opted for Lasik eye surgery, according to MLB.com's Dick Kaegel, to a remedy of a .213/.286/.354 batting line. The only sign of improvement from him since returning to the lineup on May 20 is an increased walk rate.

    There's no denying his raw tools or the fact that his outfield defense is already major league-ready. Everything else is highly questionable.

23. 3B Nick Delmonico (Baltimore Orioles)

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    Current team: High-A Frederick Keys.

    2013 stats: .329/.453/.643, 5 HR, 17 RBI in 86 PA.

    Nick Delmonico's 2013 excellence allows him to leapfrog Jonathan Schoop, who could be out past midseason with a back injury.

    Delmonico has also spent time on the disabled list, missing more than three weeks with a concussion.

    The 20-year-old doesn't really have a defensive position. He's trying third base this summer after splitting 2012 between first and second.

    A potent bat will surely lead him to the big leagues, anyway.

22. 2B/SS Joe Panik (San Francisco Giants)

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    Current team: Double-A Richmond Flying Squirrels.

    2013 stats: .291/.383/.365, 19 RBI, 7 SB in 223 PA.

    Richmond hitting coach Ken Joyce praises Joe Panik's intangibles in saying that his demeanor is much like Buster Posey's, according to Jessica Quiroli.

    The skill sets, however, aren't very comparable. Panik has zero home runs in 2013 and only four in his past 197 professional games.

    On the other hand he's already getting comfortable at second base after a lifetime at shortstop. Hardly anybody makes more contact and spreads the ball to all fields with more consistency.

    Panik has a limited ceiling, but at least he'll be a quality insurance policy behind Marco Scutaro.

21. 3B Kaleb Cowart (Los Angeles Angels)

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    Current team: Double-A Arkansas Travelers.

    2013 stats: .225/.285/.343, 3 HR, 12 RBI, 5 SB in 195 PA.

    Initially, the Texas League man-handled Kaleb Cowart. He owned a gruesome .200/.264/.307 batting line through 40 games with 38 strikeouts and only two home runs.

    Fortunately, Alberto Callaspo's likely successor at third base is getting into a late-May groove. As a former ace pitcher, he has more than enough velocity to make throws at the hot corner.

    The Los Angeles Angels have a bone-dry farm system now that Garrett Richards, Mike Trout and Mark Trumbo play for the major league team. Aside from Cowart, few of their developing hitters look like sure-fire, everyday players.

20. OF Rymer Liriano (San Diego Padres)

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    Most recent team: Double-A San Antonio Missions.

    2013 stats: none.

    Tommy John surgery has halted Rymer Liriano's development in the San Diego Padres system. The silver lining is that the procedure could ultimately strengthen his already-outstanding throwing arm.

    Liriano has been criticized for a Bryce Harper-esque mindset of doing everything at a million miles per hour. He'll need to relax his batting stance and make wiser choices on the basepaths to perform at an All-Star-caliber level.

    For his career, Liriano strikes out once every four plate appearances, though he's made significant progress in that area since 2011.

19. 3B Nolan Arenado (Colorado Rockies)

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    Current team: Colorado Rockies.

    2013 minor league stats: .364/.392/.667, 3 HR, 21 RBI in 75 PA.

    2013 MLB stats: .243/.278/.427, 4 HR, 11 RBI in 108 PA.

    Chris Nelson's ineptitude at third base gave the Colorado Rockies no alternative but to call up Nolan Arenado. He had been excelling at Triple-A with 14 extra-base hits in 18 games.

    Arenado's ability to drive the ball should translate to success in the thin air of Coors Field, and his fielding is more than adequate. Just don't expect many home runs from him on the road.

    The primary concern at this point is his over-anxious mentality at the plate.

18. SS Addison Russell (Oakland Athletics)

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    Current team: High-A Stockton Ports.

    2013 stats: .210/.310/.414, 6 HR, 21 RBI, 5 SB in 186 PA.

    With a name like Addison Russell, you wonder why the Chicago Cubs didn't draft this shortstop (OK, bad joke).

    At 18, he excelled across three different minor league levels (26 XBH in 55 G). Concerns about Russell's weight dissipated as he stole bases at will and held his own defensively.

    But 2013 hasn't been the same cake walk. Russell homered once through the first five weeks, striking out nearly once every three plate appearances. That included a 1-for-29 stretch.

    Recently, however, the Oakland Athletics feel better about investing in the Pensacola, Fla. native.

17. C Gary Sanchez (New York Yankees)

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    Current team: High-A Tampa Yankees.

    2013 stats: .277/.347/.480, 8 HR, 38 RBI in 199 PA.

    Trading away Jesus Montero in January 2012 instantly made Gary Sanchez the "catcher of the future" for the New York Yankees.

    He has gradually improved defensively while continuing to hit for above-average power. Once again, Sanchez is noticeably younger than his peers, yet he's been making contact very consistently in 2013.

    The "attitude problems" that Mark Feinsand of the Daily News reported about two years ago haven't hindered his progress since.

16. Of Billy Hamilton (Cincinnati Reds)

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    Current team: Triple-A Louisville Bats.

    2013 stats: .246/.316/.333, 2 HR 15 RBI, 26 SB in 215 PA.

    Plate discipline and blazing speed will be the keys to Billy Hamilton's long career. He set an all-time record with 155 stolen bases last summer at Double-A.

    The Cincinnati Reds have shifted him to center field, and it's going to take a while longer for him to get comfortable there. Regardless, there could soon be clamoring for his call-up with news that Ryan Ludwick is not close to returning, according to C. Trent Rosecrans of the  Cincinnati Enquirer.

    Though Hamilton might develop into leadoff man extraordinaire at the next level, there's also plenty of bust potential.

15. SS Didi Gregorius (Arizona Diamondbacks)

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    Current team: Arizona Diamondbacks.

    2013 minor league stats: .387/.424/.645, 2 HR, 2 RBI in 33 PA.

    2013 MLB stats: .324/.385/.541, 4 HR, 11 RBI in 124 PA.

    Just when it appeared Didi Gregorius was coming back down to Earth, he single-handedly dominated Yu Darvish and led the Arizona Diamondbacks to their 30th victory.

    Who could've anticipated such an offensive impact from someone who owned a career .694 OPS in the minors?

    The reality is that Gregorius will eventually settle down. Power won't be a huge part of his game, nor will baserunning.

    But the longtime Cincinnati Reds prospect has the defensive instincts and athleticism to make a great living as a starting shortstop.

     

    *Adam Eaton will have the distinction of being Arizona's top hitting prospect if/when Gregorius loses rookie eligibility.

14. OF Yasiel Puig (Los Angeles Dodgers)

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    Current team: Double-A Chattanooga Lookouts.

    2013 stats: .316/.390/.603, 8 HR, 35 RBI, 11 SB in 155 PA.

    Yasiel Puig was arguably the most impressive hitter—prospect or otherwise—in the Cactus League earlier this year. Even with three reputable MLB outfielders, the Los Angeles Dodgers must have been tempted to make space for him on the active roster.

    The Cuban outfielder hasn't replicated his preseason 1.328 OPS, but .993 is pretty darn impressive considering he only signed with the Dodgers organization one year ago.

    He takes an aggressive approach into his plate appearances, yet has only two career hat tricks (three strikeouts in a game).

    Due to size, athleticism and nationality, he's often compared to Yoenis Cespedes, who admits that Puig has terrific potential.

13. 3B Anthony Rendon (Washington Nationals)

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    Current team: Double-A Harrisburg Senators.

    2013 minor league stats: .330/.473/.625, 6 HR, 24 RBI in 148 PA.

    2013 MLB stats: .240/.367/.280, 1 RBI in 30 PA.

    After being sent back down to the minors, Anthony Rendon is reaping the benefits of occasionally facing pitchers younger than himself. The Rice University product turns 23 on June 6.

    Though slightly disappointing, his stint with the Washington Nationals was too short to lessen our perception of him.

    The question with Rendon is whether or not he can avoid injury. A blend of baseball intelligence and sound hitting mechanics will ensure that the healthy parts of his career will be very productive.

12. C Travis D'Arnaud (New York Mets)

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    Current team: Triple-A Las Vegas 51s.

    2013 stats: .250/.429/.472, 1 HR, 8 RBI in 49 PA.

    There's a consensus that Travis d'Arnaud is "the complete package," a terrific defensive catcher who's also comfortable handling the bat. He thoroughly impressed the New York Mets coaching staff in spring training, and he'll most certainly make his major league debut later this summer.

    But the former first-round draft pick is both old (by top-prospect standards) and injury-prone. Actually, he's currently sidelined until June with a broken bone in his foot.

    For those reasons, he isn't even the top backstop in these rankings.

11. SS Javier Baez (Chicago Cubs)

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    Current team: High-A Dayton Cubs.

    2013 stats: .266/.305/.473, 6 HR, 25 RBI, 4 SB in 200 PA.

    This free-swinger is catching fire as the season wears on, though he rarely goes a week without committing an error at shortstop.

    Bleacher Report's own Mike Rosenbaum believes Javier Baez "lacks a feel for the strike zone and will chase too many pitches" and approaches his plate appearances without much of a plan. He could be moved to third base depending on how he fills out physically in the coming years.

    Ultimately, "Baez’s bat gives him one of the highest offensive ceilings in the minor leagues, though it comes with a considerable amount of risk," Rosenbaum writes. The unpredictability factor denies him a spot in the top 10.

10. C Mike Zunino (Seattle Mariners)

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    Current team: Triple-A Tacoma Rainiers.

    2013 stats: .231/.301/.503, 8 HR, 36 RBI in 163 PA.

    In 44 games last season, Mike Zunino posted a robust 1.137 OPS. An Opening Day roster spot didn't seem so far-fetched.

    But with 47 strikeouts in the Pacific Coast League and mediocrity with runners in scoring position, the Seattle Mariners cannot get overly excited.

    In recent years, fans have salivated over Dustin Ackley, Jesus Montero and Justin Smoak, only to watch them hit road blocks.

    Thankfully, Zunino would be able to compensate with his great game-calling, even if his bat never fulfilled its potential.

9. OF/3B Nick Castellanos (Detroit Tigers)

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    Current team: Triple-A Toledo Mud Hens.

    2013 stats: .261/.336/.424, 5 HR, 24 RBI in 229 PA.

    As Nick Castellanos nears his first MLB call-up, the Detroit Tigers want him to become familiar with the corner outfield positions. After all, he isn't supplanting Miguel Cabrera at third base anytime soon.

    The club sent him straight to Triple-A after a productive spring training.

    His strikeout rate is gradually getting better, which is important for a hitter who lacks otherworldly power.

    Worst-case scenario, Castellanos will be a great platoon player in the majors. But considering his advanced hand-eye coordination and fluid swing, he's more likely a future batting title contender.

8. Of Christian Yelich (Miami Marlins)

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    Current team: Double-A Jacksonville Suns.

    2013 stats: .270/.331/.539, 6 HR, 26 RBI, 4 SB in 153 PA.

    The above numbers were even better a few weeks ago, but Christian Yelich has recently struggled at the plate (.119/.140/.190 with 14 SO since May 17). He doesn't put balls in play as often as the Miami Marlins hoped he would.

    Though the platoon splits have been somewhat extreme in 2013, Yelich's past professional performance suggests that he's capable of doing damage against southpaws. Keep in mind, the 21-year-old is among the youngest players in the entire Southern League.

    Yelich batted .364/.451/.818 with five home runs in major league spring training while playing through a nagging foot injury. Miami's offense is on a historically abysmal pace, so expect the outfielder to debut sometime this summer.

7. SS Carlos Correa (Houston Astros)

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    Current team: Single-A Quad Cities River Bandits.

    2013 stats: .284/.406/.411, 3 HR, 28 RBI, 5 SB in 171 PA.

    Fellow Houston Astros farmhand George Springer is on a 40-40 pace at Double-A Corpus Christi, but as we've noted already, top production doesn't necessarily make someone a top prospect.

    Five years his junior, Carlos Correa possesses legitimate superstar potential. The No. 1 overall pick from last June's draft has improved his swing and pitch recognition as a second-year pro. That's reflected in his strikeout-to-walk ratio (44/12 in 2012 vs. 33/26 in 2013).

    Correa's body type is akin to that of a young Alex Rodriguez, and his height shouldn't hinder his ability to handle a shortstop's defensive responsibility. The slight uncertainty that accompanies a long developmental process prevents him from climbing higher in these rankings.

6. 3B Miguel Sano (Minnesota Twins)

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    Current team: High-A Fort Myers Miracle.

    2013 stats: .341/.433/.665, 13 HR, 38 RBI, 7 SB in 203 PA.

    With Miguel Sano terrorizing all his opposition, the Minnesota Twins shouldn't be worried about locking Justin Morneau into a long-term deal. As the 20-year-old fills out his 6'3" frame, he'll probably shift across the diamond to first base.

    Though Sano's fielding is pretty painful to watch, his power compares favorably to any other prospect's. He's also surprisingly patient at the plate.

    Depending on how well he conditions his body in the future, Sano could be an occasional stolen-base threat.

5. SS Xander Bogaerts (Boston Red Sox)

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    Current team: Double-A Portland Sea Dogs.

    2013 stats: .273/.360/.413, 2 HR, 21 RBI, 5 SB in 198 PA.

    Xander Bogaerts played sparingly in major league camp this spring, but took advantage of a starting opportunity for the Netherlands during the World Baseball Classic.

    He emerged from a slow start in mid-April (.305/.399/.489 since April 16).

    Don't be concerned about the apparent lack of power. Bogaerts combined for 36 home runs from 2011-12.

    His size might be better suited for third base or the outfield, and there's confidence that he can make the necessary adjustments to thrive at those positions.

4. SS Francisco Lindor (Cleveland Indians)

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    Current team: High-A Carolina Mudcats.

    2013 stats: .319/.393/.445, 1 HR, 17 RBI, 13 SB in 211 PA.

    Francisco Lindor came in behind Xander Bogaerts on nearly all preseason prospect lists. He makes the jump here on the strength of his brilliant glovework and surprising effectiveness at the plate.

    The 19-year-old has more walks than strikeouts in 2013, and he's on pace for more than 35 stolen bases. You'll never see Lindor in a home run derby, but if given an immediate promotion, he'd be a defensive upgrade over Cleveland Indians shortstop Asdrubal Cabrera.

    In his third season of pro ball, he has yet to play consecutive games without reaching base.

3. OF Wil Myers (Tampa Bay Rays)

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    Current team: Triple-A Durham Bulls.

    2013 stats: .263/.344/.441, 7 HR, 36 RBI, 3 SB in 209 PA.

    From afar, the Tampa Bay Rays evidently held Wil Myers in very high regard. He was the centerpiece of the package they received in exchange for Wade Davis and James Shields.

    Thanks to a recent power surge (6 XBH since May 23), his numbers have started to resemble those that he posted at Triple-A in 2012. 

    Myers places ahead of all other right-handed hitters in these rankings because of his immense power, athleticism and relatively young age (he turns 23 in December).

    The only concern is his strikeout rate, which has worsened each of the past three years. This season, he's been whiffing about once every four plate appearances.

2. OF Oscar Taveras (St. Louis Cardinals)

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    Current team: Triple-A Memphis Redbirds.

    2013 stats: .317/.351/.480, 4 HR, 20 RBI, 5 SB in 132 PA.

    Only an ankle injury could cool off Oscar Taveras, who was batting .362/.392/.596 through the first 11 games of May.

    According to Baseball-Reference.com, the soon-to-be 21-year-old hasn't faced a pitcher younger than him all season. Yet he already has three four-hit games this season.

    As was the case with Christian Yelich, Taveras is performing uncharacteristically poorly against left-handers. The difference is that this Dominican center fielder has never had trouble making contact.

    Taveras handles every promotion with ease, so there's little doubt that he'll be making an impact in the majors later this summer...and for another 12-15 years beyond that. There have been comparisons made between Taveras and former American League MVP Vladimir Guerrero.

1. SS/2B Jurickson Profar (Texas Rangers)

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    Current team: Texas Rangers.

    2013 minor league stats: .278/.370/.438, 4 HR, 19 RBI, 6 SB in 166 PA.

    2013 MLB stats: .304/.320/.478, 1 HR, 5 RBI in 25 PA.

    Mike Rosenbaum put Jurickson Profar at No.1 in his post-spring training prospect rankings for many reasons, and offense had a lot to do with it.

    His "wiry strength" and excellent bat speed contributed to 14 home runs and .171 Isolated Power when he was a 19-year-old at Double-A.

    With the possible exceptions of Andrelton Simmons (Atlanta Braves) and Brendan Ryan (Seattle Mariners), there might not be a better defensive middle infielder in baseball. This consensus top prospect has both the physical tools and poise to make correct choices in critical situations.

    The youngest player currently at the major league level, Profar has shown enough promise to start on the AL's best team.