Ranking the Top Leadoff Hitting Prospect in Each Organization
For most of baseball history, the No. 1 spot in the lineup was reserved for the speediest, and therefore often the smallest, player on the team.
Vince Coleman, Maury Wills, Tim Raines, Lou Brock, Kenny Lofton and the immortal Rickey Henderson, each of whom checked in at less than six feet tall and less than 185 pounds, turned the position into a cliche that forced teams to overlook important statistics like on-base percentage and one's ability to hit with no one on base.
Today, the leadoff position is a different ballgame.
Of the qualified leadoff hitters in the game today, only five have cracked double-digits in stolen bases this season.
Bye-bye speed. Hello on-base percentage!
Among those players qualified, Cincinnati's Shin-Soo Choo has the highest on-base percentage (.425). He checks in at 5'11'' and 205 pounds and has more career home runs than stolen bases.
The top batting average (.316) belongs to St. Louis second baseman Matt Carpenter. He checks in at 6'3'' and 200 pounds and for his career has exactly two stolen bases.
Neither Choo nor Carpenter would have had the opportunity to hit leadoff 30 years ago with stolen base totals and figures like that.
That's not to say there isn't a place for the young up-and-coming leadoff hitters of the future, guys like Gary Brown and Billy Hamilton, who still place an emphasis on speed.
The simple truth is that today's leadoff hitters are as balanced as ever, containing a combination of on-base skills and speed with a dash of pop for good measure.
With an eye to the future of the position, let's take a look at the top leadoff hitting prospects in baseball right now.
Arizona: Matt McPhearson, OF, 18 Years Old
The D-Backs were lucky to snatch up McPhearson, who had easily the best wheels of any prospect in the 2013 draft class, in the fourth round.
Concerns about his ability with the bat dropped him that far, but if he can manage to develop into at least an average hitter, he'll cause havoc atop a lineup. Well-built at 5'10'' and 170 pounds, he's more raw than Billy Hamilton was coming out of high school, but he has just as much speed.
McPhearson was clocked at 6.21 in the 60-yard dash at the Perfect Game National Showcase.
Arizona should come to terms with McPhearson, whose commitment to Miami isn't considered iron-clad.
2013 stats: N/A (drafted in 2013)
Atlanta: Matt Lipka, OF, 21 Years Old
The Braves' supplemental first-round pick back in 2010, Lipka has shown flashes of true leadoff capability.
In his Gulf Coast League debut back in 2010, he hit .302 with four triples, 33 runs scored and 20 steals in 48 games. He hit a bit of a wall upon his promotion to full-season ball in 2011, but he still managed to steal 28 bases while scoring 78 runs in 127 contests. He managed to recapture some momentum in 2012 (.271, 32 R, 12 SB in 51 G), although he missed a big chunk of the year with a torn hamstring.
Fully healthy for the first time since 2011, Lipka has produced at an incredibly high level in 2013. He has paced the Lynchburg (High-A) offensive effort. Through 66 games, he's hitting .284 with 18 doubles, 40 runs and 17 steals.
He showcased all of his abilities earlier this season by hitting for the cycle in a 4-for-5 effort in which he drove in a career-high five runs.
Assuming he can stay healthy, Lipka is on pace to shatter all of his career marks, and he might earn a promotion to Double-A along the way.
2013 stats: .284/.328/.418, 18 2B, 3 3B, 4 HR, 30 RBI, 38 R, 15/48 BB/K, 17 SB
Baltimore: L.J. Hoes, OF, 23 Years Old
This season is Hoes' sixth in the Orioles farm system, and tossing in his two-game stint with the big league club last year, he's spent time at every one of the organization's seven levels.
Still just 23 years old, Hoes has nearly reached the big leagues for good. He's made consistent contact and has shown the best plate discipline in the organization.
With 24 career home runs, Hoes will never offer much power, but there's no reason he can't go on to have a career path similar to that of the Orioles' current leadoff hitter, Nate McLouth.
2013 stats: .294/.396/.408, 16 2B, 1 3B, 3 HR, 29 RBI, 42 R, 36/39 BB/K, 6 SB
Boston: Manuel Margot, OF, 18 Years Old
One of the most dynamic prospects in the Boston system, Manuel Margot is the gem of the Red Sox 2011 international signing period.
Signed to an $800,000 bonus, Margot set the Dominican Summer League afire last season. In 68 contests, he hit .285/.382/.423 with 10 doubles, seven triples, four homers and 45 RBI. He also drew more walks (36) than strikeouts (25) and stole 33 bases with a 79 percent success rate.
A line-drive hitter, Margot profiles now as a leadoff hitter, where he can put his on-base skills and above-average speed to use, although as he fills out his 5'11'' and 170-pound frame, he might lose a step.
Those excited for an encore performance will have to wait until the Sox short-season Lowell squad takes the field in a few days.
2013 stats: N/A (yet to appear)
Chicago Cubs: Matt Szczur, OF, 23 Years Old
In a little less than three-and-a-half seasons, Szczur has risen from the Cubs rookie-ball squad all the way to Double-A, and the more the front office gets to see of him, the more it's clear that he's the future leadoff hitter.
Szczur possesses all the tools that teams look for in leadoff hitters, including speed, plate discipline and an uncanny ability to reach base. He set a career-high with 42 steals last season, has a career BB/K rate of 123/186 and this season he's hit .291 with a .364 on-base percentage.
This season is Szczur's second attempt at Double-A, and it's going much better than his first. So much so, in fact, that it wouldn't come as a shock to see him bumped to Triple-A before the end of the year.
2013 stats: .291/.364/.382, 13 2B, 2 3B, 2 HR, 28 RBI, 38 R, 26/43 BB/K, 15 SB
Chicago White Sox: Keenyn Walker, OF, 22 Years Old
Walker suffers from the same ailment that plagues the majority of White Sox prospects.
Will he ever hit enough to stick in the Major Leagues?
Heck, after hitting .238 last season and .213 so far this year, will Walker ever hit enough to stick in the minor leagues?
Despite the jokes, Walker offers a compelling package when he's on his game. His speed is arguably the best in the system, as evidenced by his 101 steals in 228 professional contests. He has some on-base skills and isn't afraid to draw a walk, although he's plagued with strikeout issues (another White Sox prospect curse).
Walker has yet show much power, not even of the doubles kind, instead preferring to perfect the art of the infield hit.
2013 stats: .213/.327/.281, 7 2B, 3 3B, 1 HR, 18 RBI, 39 R, 32/73 BB/K, 24 SB
Cincinnati: Billy Hamilton, OF, 22 Years Old
Hamilton is the minor league single-season record holder for stolen bases (155).
A career .282 hitter, he's also shown some ability with the bat. He's not afraid to draw a walk, although he strikes out too often.
If the trade-off is 20 doubles, 10 triples and over 100 steals though, it's definitely a trade-off that Cincinnati will take.
2013 stats: .247/.307/.345, 11 2B, 2 3B, 4 HR, 22 RBI, 45 R, 24/56 BB/K, 43 SB
Cleveland: Tyler Naquin, OF, 22 Years Old
The more at-bats Naquin gets, the more likely whichever team he's playing for is going to win.
A former first-round selection, Naquin has set the world on fire since signing for $1.75 million last year. He tore up the New York-Penn League, hitting .270 with 11 doubles, 13 RBI and 22 runs before setting his sights on the High-A Carolina League this season.
Despite skipping Low-A Lake County entirely, Naquin has thrived hitting back-to-back with Cleveland's top prospect Francisco Lindor. Through 65 games this season, he's hitting .311 with 27 extra-base hits and 47 runs scored.
He has had some troubles adjusting to the superior pitching, and as a result he has already racked up 68 strikeouts, but his ability to get on base has been worth the extra whiffs.
While his 13 steals in 101 games may signify that he doesn't have great speed, Naquin is selective and aggressive enough to steal 15-20 bases per season at the big league level.
2013 stats: .311/.375/.468, 18 2B, 3 3B, 6 HR, 29 RBI, 47 R, 24/68 BB/K, 9 SB
Colorado: Corey Dickerson, OF, 24 Years Old
Dickerson doesn't fit the stereotype of the diminutive, speedy leadoff hitter, but he's done just fine with the Rockies serving in that role for the past few seasons.
The argument can even be made that he's the most exciting player in the organization, which could come as something of a shock considering Colorado also houses David Dahl, Trevor Story and Kyle Parker in its system.
Dickerson has produced jaw-dropping numbers at every level. From his rookie-league debut in which he hit .348 with 13 homers and 61 RBI in just 69 games to his sophomore campaign in which he slugged 32 homers and drove in 87 runs, he's been consistently awesome.
After another 20-plus home run campaign last year, Dickerson arrived in Triple-A to start 2013, and he's done an incredible amount of damage.
His .382 average is one of the top numbers in the minor leagues, and he's one home run away from hitting double digits in doubles, triples and homers.
With only 43 steals in four pro seasons, Dickerson isn't much of a threat on the basepaths, although it's hard to find a more convincing case for him as Colorado's leadoff hitter of the future than his .423 on-base percentage this season.
2013 stats: .382/.423/.652, 18 2B, 13 3B, 9 HR, 36 RBI, 52 R, 21/42 BB/K, 6 SB
Detroit: Hernan Perez, 2B, 22 Years Old
Perez has been a member of the Detroit organization since 2007, when he signed out of his native Venezuela.
Just 22 years old, he's finally hitting his stride offensively. If he can manage to stay healthy, he's on pace to set all sorts of career-highs, including average (.306), doubles (22), homers (three), runs (34) and steals (19).
If his newfound hitting ability is for real, then Perez has the skills to hit atop the lineup. As a cautious side-note, it's worth remembering that his career on-base percentage is a paltry .295, even factoring in his .332 mark this season.
2013 stats: .306/.332/.428, 22 2B, 1 3B, 3 HR, 24 RBI, 34 R, 11/38 BB/K, 19 SB
Houston: Delino DeShields, 2B, 20 Years Old
DeShields' presence in the Houston system has been largely overshadowed by the organization's influx of talent in the three years since he was drafted. Carlos Correa, Jonathan Singleton, George Springer, Jarred Cosart and now Mark Appel have passed him in the team's prospect rankings, products of two sensational draft classes (2012 and 2013) and a large trade with Philadelphia.
That's not to say that DeShields doesn't still have value. In fact, he's easily the best leadoff hitter in the system, possessing an incredible combination of speed and a knack for getting on base.
He showcased both skills last year, although his 101 steals were not give the attention they deserved because of Billy Hamilton's record-setting 155. He managed to maintain an average that hovered around .300 all season as a 19-year-old in the South Atlantic League.
He was also able to maintain an on-base percentage around .400, thanks to his 70 walks.
Back in Lancaster, where he ended the 2012 campaign, DeShields has shown he's accustomed to High-A pitching, although he has only 16 steals through 52 games.
2013 stats: .299/.385/.426, 8 2B, 6 3B, 2 HR, 24 RBI, 37 R, 26/46 BB/K, 16 SB
Kansas: Christian Colon, 2B, 24 Years Old
Like DeShields, Colon has largely been forgotten as the Royals have added talent over the past few years. He checks in at No. 10 on MLB.com's preseason prospect ranking, although he's arguably the most seasoned and big league ready of any of the Royals' farmhands.
After a sterling career at Cal State-Fullerton, Colon has been incredibly consistent as a pro, showing good on-base ability, decent speed and occasional pop. He has also prove incredibly hard to strike out, getting punched out in just over 10 percent of his 1,281 career at-bats.
Unfortunately, 2013 has not been Colon's year. Hitting mostly second for Triple-A Omaha, he's struggled to a .223/.282/.300 line. Those are the kind of numbers that are going to need to rise if he's one day going to lead off a lineup that includes Eric Hosmer, Mike Moustakas, Bubba Starling and Adalberto Mondesi.
2013 stats: .223/.282/.300, 4 2B, 1 3B, 4 HR, 25 RBI, 31 R, 19/28 BB/K, 5 SB
Los Angeles Angels: Taylor Lindsey, 2B, 21 Years Old
Clearly the Angels won't need a capable leadoff hitter for at least another five to 10 years, or however long the reign of Mike Trout lasts. Heck even if something were to happen to Trout, the speedy Peter Bourjos would likely take over the role.
Still, somebody has to be mentioned, leading us to Taylor Lindsey, the team's supplemental first-round pick from 2010.
Lindsey doesn't get as much love as he should among the top infield prospects in all of baseball, but don't forget this is a guy who won Pioneer League MVP honors back in 2011 after a sensational campaign in which he hit .362 with 28 doubles, six triples, nine homers and 46 RBI in just 63 games.
And while he didn't have quite the offensive output that was expected of him in last season's trial in the hitter-friendly Cal League, a .289/.328/.408 line is still rather impressive for a 20-year-old in High-A ball.
This season, Lindsey has graduated to Double-A, but he's continued to produce, already establishing a career-high with 10 home runs.
He doesn't feature the speed one would like to see out of a leadoff guy, but he's got the instincts to steal a base when he needs to.
2013 stats: .277/.341/.471, 13 2B, 2 3B, 10 HR, 29 RBI, 31 R, 24/36 BB/K, 2 SB
Los Angeles Dodgers: James Baldwin, OF, 21 Years Old
The way that Baldwin's professional career has gone so far, it would be a shock if he ever hit ninth in a big league lineup, much less first.
Despite his .231/.311/.370 career line, however, Baldwin has shown flashes of being a top-of-the-order presence. Among the things that stood out from his full-season debut in 2012 were his 53 steals and 45 walks. Unfortunately, he logged 132 more strikeouts than he did walks, finishing the season with one of the highest strikeout numbers in the minors.
Strikeouts have pretty much been the only thing that have been able to keep Baldwin from reaching his full potential. He's now racked up close to 400 in 1,001 professional at-bats. It's no wonder that he's only reached Low-A ball in four pro seasons.
This season, he's made some minor improvements back at Low-A Great Lakes, but he'll need to show a lot more ability at the plate to warrant any kind of future with the club.
2013 stats: .220/.311/.344, 7 2B, 2 3B, 4 HR, 26 RBI, 24 R, 20/82 BB/K, 21 SB
Miami: Brent Keys, OF, 22 Years Old
In an organization that houses such talent as Christian Yelich and Colin Moran, it might come as a shock that the Marlins' best bet for a future leadoff hitter is 22-year-old, five-year minor league veteran Brent Keys.
It took three years for Keys to finally break through, but since last season he's been on a tear, setting fire to the South Atlantic League, where he won the batting title, and this year the Florida State League.
Keys has solid speed, but his best tool has to be his willingness to do whatever it takes to get on base. Bunting for hits, leaning into one and drawing a walk, Keys does it all. And he does himself a gigantic favor by being darn near impossible to strike out. For his career, he sports a 122/118 BB/K ratio.
This season Keys is again performing at a high level. If he keeps up his production, a promotion to Double-A could be coming soon.
2013 stats: .318/.391/.364, 4 2B, 1 HR, 7 RBI, 18 R, 17/9 BB/K, 6 SB
Milwaukee: Scooter Gennett, 2B, 23 Years Old
A gamer in every sense of the word, Gennett has made it his mission to prove critics wrong during his four years with Milwaukee.
After rocketing through the minors, needing fewer than 135 games at each level, it seems as though he's finally ready to see how his skills play out in the big-leagues.
In the minors, Gennett showed all the tools required of a leadoff hitter. He's a career .300 hitter with good speed and a knack for getting on base. Unfortunately, he doesn't walk too much, but on the plus side, he doesn't strike out that often either.
He's shown some good pop, slugging 18 homers during his first two seasons, but at 5'10'' and 180 pounds, Gennett knows what kind of player he is. One that hits at the top of a lineup.
2013 stats: .297/.342/.376, 7 2B, 3 3B, 1 HR, 13 RBI, 30 R, 14/32 BB/K, 8 SB
Minnesota: Levi Michael, SS/2B, 22 Years Old
The owner of a career .243 average in nearly a season's worth of game time, Michael doesn't appear to be a future leadoff type.
Still, his somewhat disappointing performance masks a player who has all the tools to hit atop a lineup.
Dating back to his days at UNC, Michael has proven he'll do whatever he can to get on base: bunt hits, hit by pitches, walks, etc. He's had more than a few of each since signing with the Twins after getting selected with their first-round pick two years ago.
In the midst of his second season in the High-A Florida State League, Michael has struggled to a .233/.310/.360 line, although he hasn't tried to force anything. He owns a solid BB/K ratio (18/31) and with nine steals, he's proving he can still help the team even if he isn't hitting.
2013 stats: .233/.310/.360, 9 2B, 2 3B, 2 HR, 12 RBI, 16 R, 18/31 BB/K, 9 SB
New York Mets: Gavin Cecchini, SS, 19 Years Old
The younger brother of Boston Red Sox prospect Garin Cecchini, Gavin was drafted by the Mets in the first-round in last year's draft.
Cecchini had a solid debut last summer, showing several tools that should enable him to become a top-of-the-order hitter.
He's a solid runner with great instincts that should allow him to be a 15-20 steal threat. He makes consistent contact, although he won't offer as much power as his brother. His 43 strikeouts in 191 at-bats in the Appy League last year are worrisome, but he still has time to work that issue out.
2013 stats: .000, 1/2 BB/K (4 PA)
New York Yankees: Mason Williams, OF, 21 Years Old
One of the most underrated prospects in all of baseball, Williams possesses an exciting combination of tools that make him the Yankees' top leadoff farmhand.
Any talk about Williams centers on his speed. He racked up 20 steals in just 91 games last year and swiped 28 in just 68 games in 2011. One thing that he'll need to work on as he continues to rise through the ranks is picking his spots, considering he owns a mediocre 65 percent success rate on the basepaths.
Williams isn't just speed, though. He hit .349/.395/.468 two years ago in the New York-Penn League, racking up extra-base hits by the truckload.
He's shown above-average plate discipline for a player of his age, and he's even shown some pop, hitting a career-high 11 homers last season.
2013 stats: .240/.325/.326, 12 2B, 1 3B, 2 HR, 14 RBI, 33 R, 28/41 BB/K, 8 SB
Oakland: B.J. Boyd, OF, 19 Years Old
Boyd doesn't get a lot of love, despite getting popped in the fourth round of last year's draft and then going out and putting on a show in the Arizona League last summer.
In just 39 games, the speedy Boyd hit .301 with 13 extra-base hits, 20 RBI and 37 runs scored. He posted a respectable 23/36 BB/K and stole 16 bases at an 80 percent success rate.
Speed is definitely Boyd's most impressive tool, although with more at-bats he should become a pretty good hitter. He was a two-sport star in high school, so dedicating himself full-time to baseball can only help his all-around game.
2013 stats: .250/.250/.500, 1 2B, 1 R, 0/1 BB/K (4 PA)
Philadelphia: Roman Quinn, OF, 20 Years Old
The Phillies knew they were getting a speedster when they selected Quinn 66th overall in the 2011 MLB draft.
With 60 steals in 128 career games, he's certainly proven them right.
What they never could have expected is that his bat would be as advanced as it's proven to be.
In his full-season debut, Quinn rapped nine doubles and legged out 11 triples in just 66 games, while maintaining an impressive .281/.370/.408 line. This season, despite seeing a drop in his average he's shown some surprising pop, bashing five homers in just 62 contests.
He's easily proven himself to be the most exciting player in the South Atlantic League. If he continues to progress with the bat, Quinn should earn a spot atop the Phillies' lineup in no time.
2013 stats: .242/.324/.357, 7 2B, 3 3B, 5 HR, 21 RBI, 34 R, 25/61 BB/K, 30 SB
Pittsburgh: Alen Hanson, SS, 20 Years Old
Hanson was the breakout star of the 2012 season.
The recipient of an aggressive promotion to Low-A ball as a 19-year-old, Hanson proved to be up to the task. He finished in the top 10 in nearly every offensive category, including runs (99), doubles (33), triples (13) and steals (35).
Not too bad for a guy who had only three at-bats outside of rookie league ball.
Hanson received a bump to the High-A Florida State League this year and once again he's proving he has what it takes to compete against pitchers much older than him.
In addition to great speed, Hanson makes consistent contact, and while he may never again hit 16 homers in a season (like he did in 2012), he has surprising pop too.
It's unlikely that Hanson will dislodge Starling Marte atop the Pirates lineup anytime soon, but for Pirates fans it's an exciting prospect of Hanson, Marte and Andrew McCutchen hitting back-to-back-to-back.
2013 stats: .281/.347/.421, 12 2B, 5 3B, 4 HR, 27 RBI, 35 R, 24/46 BB/K, 19 SB
San Diego: Cory Spangenberg, 2B, 22 Years Old
Spangenberg was widely considered one of the top hitters available in the 2011 draft, and the Padres pounced on the opportunity to select him when their pick came up.
He has rewarded their faith by tearing through the minor leagues, reaching Double-A in a little over 200 games.
While there are a few things that Spangenberg doesn't do well, two things he does better than most are hit and run. He's a .288 career hitter, with more than one-quarter of those going for extra-bases. He's shown off his wheels as well. He is two steals away from his third consecutive campaign with 20 or more stolen bases.
Spangenberg doesn't strike out too often, although he doesn't walk much either, something he'll have to work on to be given the opportunity to hit leadoff full-time.
He earned a midseason promotion to San Antonio by hitting .296 with 23 extra-base hits with 17 steals in just 54 games with High-A Lake Elsinore.
2013 stats: .282/.349/.432, 14 2B, 7 3B, 4 HR, 36 RBI, 38 R, 27/57 BB/K, 18 SB
San Francisco: Gary Brown, OF, 24 Years Old
Much of the luster has worn off of Gary Brown, who hit .336/.407/.519 in the California League two years ago.
Critics who claimed that his performance was unfairly aided by the conditions of the hitter-friendly circuit appear to have been proven correct, as the 24-year-old Brown has scuffled to a .262/.322/.388 line in the two seasons since.
While he may not be posting eye-popping numbers, Brown is still on track to take over leadoff duties for the big league club at some point in the next few years.
On the plus side, Brown has continued to be a doubles machine. After rapping 34 in 2011, he racked up 32 last year and with 18 so far in 68 games, he's well on his way to a third straight 30-plus season.
Two things to be concerned about if you're a Giants fan are Brown's increasing strikeout rate and his decreasing stolen base totals. After striking out in less than 14 percent of his at-bats during his banner campaign two years ago, Brown whiffed in 15 percent of his at-bats last year. The number is up to 24 percent this season.
As for his steals, Brown has seen them decrease from 53 with a 74 percent success rate to 33 with a 65 percent success rate. This season he has just eight steals in 68 games and has already been caught six times.
2013 stats: .231/.292/.395, 18 2B, 2 3B, 8 HR, 31 RBI, 51 R, 16/67 BB/K, 8 SB
Seattle: Leon Landry, OF, 23 Years Old
From one prospect whose career year was a byproduct of the league he played in to another.
Leon Landry exploded with an absolutely astonishing season in the Cal League last year, finishing as the batting champion while also rapping 34 doubles, legging out 18 triples and slugging a career-high 13 home runs. He also set career marks with 76 RBI and 88 runs. And for good measure he stole 27 bases.
He was even better after he was traded late in the season from Los Angeles (NL) to Seattle, hitting .385/.414/.663 with 16 extra-base hits and 25 RBI in just 24 games.
Heading into last year's offensive onslaught, Landry was coming off of a solid, but not overly impressive campaign in which he hit .250/.307/.360 in the Low-A Midwest League. Taking into account those numbers and his .237/.280/.355 line this season at Double-A Jackson, it seems as though last year was a bit of a mirage for Landry.
Fortunately, taking out the ridiculous offensive numbers from 2012, Landry still offers good extra-base power and great speed. He also doesn't hurt himself by racking up huge strikeout numbers.
Seattle doesn't have too many legitimate leadoff hitting prospects, but Landry is the best of what they do have.
2013 stats: .237/.280/.355, 8 2B, 1 3B, 5 HR, 19 RBI, 25 R, 12/31 BB/K, 15 SB
St. Louis: Kolten Wong, 2B, 22 Years Old
Wong was widely regarded as the most polished hitting prospect in the 2011 draft class, and St. Louis was thrilled to see him drop all the way to their pick at No. 22.
Since signing, he's proven to be exactly the kind of player the front office hoped he would be, hitting .304/.361/.443 in less than 1,000 career at-bats.
After a sterling debut, hitting .335/.401/.510 in the Midwest League, Wong skipped High-A ball and held his own last year in Double-A, showing the same aggressive approach that made St. Louis want him so bad.
In addition to having great on-base skills, Wong has solid speed that should produce 15-20 steals a year at the big league level and surprising power. He slugged nine homers last season, and with five in 2013, he's already on his way to surpassing that mark. Assuming he doesn't get the call to St. Louis at some point this season, which is a legitimate possibility.
2013 stats: .315/.354/.467, 14 2B, 5 3B, 5 HR, 24 RBI, 41 R, 16/38 BB/K, 11 SB
Tampa Bay: Hak-Ju Lee, SS, 22 Years Old
The Rays have several leadoff hitting prospects in their system, each of whom has great potential. But few offer the all-around package of Lee, who will unfortunately miss the remainder of the 2013 season after being diagnosed with torn ligaments in his left knee.
When healthy, Lee is a machine at getting on base and then doing damage while he's there.
He showed all of those skills last season at Double-A Montgomery, posting a .261/.336/.360 line in 116 games. He drew 51 BBs, rapped 15 doubles and legged out 10 triples, the second season in a row he's reached double digits in that category. He also stole 37 bases at an 80 percent success rate.
He was named to Triple-A Durham's roster to start the 2013 season and he was on a tear, hitting .422 in 15 contests, posting an 11/9 BB/K rate and stealing six bases before an ugly collision forced him to the sideline.
Lee will likely return to Triple-A next season, although given their offensive woes it shouldn't be long before he's leading off for the Rays.
2013 stats: .422/.536/.600, 3 2B, 1 3B, 1 HR, 7 RBI, 13 R, 11/9 BB/K, 6 SB
Texas: Jurickson Profar, SS, 20 Years Old
There's a reason that Profar was widely regarded as the top prospect in all of baseball heading into the 2013 season.
Well, there's a few actually.
Profar made his professional debut in the summer of 2010 in the short-season Northwest League as a 17-year-old. Three years later he was playing in the majors, thanks to an incredible approach at the plate and polish beyond his years.
As documented by every baseball publication that exists, Profar offers the complete package. He makes consistent contact, can spray the ball all over the field, has great speed and is a sensational shortstop. He's even shown some good power on occasion.
It may take him a few years to establish himself as a bona fide big league leadoff hitter, but when he does, look out!
2013 stats: .278/.370/.438, 7 2B, 2 3B, 4 HR, 19 RBI, 27 R, 21/24 BB/K, 6 SB (AAA)
2013 stats: .276/.333/.391, 4 2B, 2 HR, 7 RBI, 7 R, 6/17 BB/K (TEX)
Toronto: D.J. Davis, OF, 18 Years Old
Davis has drawn comparisons to Michael Bourn, which tells you all you need to know about the speedy Blue Jays farmhand.
Toronto's first-round selection in last year's draft, Davis made his debut in the Gulf Coast League, but he finished the year in the short-season Northwest League. Combined he hit .250 with 10 doubles, three triples, 42 runs and 25 steals in just 60 games. Unfortunately, he also struck out 70 times in just 228 at-bats.
Clearly that's a number that is going to require improvement as he climbs up the ladder, although most statistics gleaned from the GCL tend to be taken with a grain of salt in scouting circles.
Scouts and fans alike will get a better look at him this summer.
2013 stats: N/A (yet to debut)
Washington: Brian Goodwin, OF, 22 Years Old
Goodwin's most appropriate comparison would be to current National Denard Span.
Similarly built, Goodwin and Span offer similar packages: good on-base capability, excellent speed and a patient approach at the plate.
The Nationals rushed Goodwin to Double-A by the end of his professional debut last year and he struggled, understandably. After posting a .324/.438//542 line at Low-A Hagerstown, he struggled to a .223/.306/.373 line with Harrisburg. For the season, he finished with a .280 average, 26 doubles, 14 homers and 18 steals.
Not bad for a debut campaign.
This season, the Nats sent Goodwin back to Double-A for more seasoning and he's slowly picking things up. He's already legged out seven triples and has 13 steals. He's showing better patience, drawing walks at a more consistent rate.
In Washington's ideal future, its lineup starts with Goodwin-Rendon-Harper.
2013 stats: .240/.346/.374, 8 2B, 7 3B, 4 HR, 16 RBI, 44 R, 34/75 BB/K, 13 SB