Since last week’s installment of prospect stock watch, two future stars have received a promotion to a more advanced level.
Twins’ outfielder Byron Buxton was promoted to High-A Fort Myers after terrorizing pitchers in the Midwest League and is 7-for-21 with four runs scored through his first five games.
Meanwhile, top-ranked pitching prospect Taijuan Walker was moved up to Triple-A Tacoma after nearly one-and-a-half seasons at Double-A Jackson. And much like Buxton, the 20-year-old right-hander is off to a terrific start as he’s yet to allow an earned run through two starts.
Here’s a look at how the rest of baseball's top prospects have performed over the last week.
1. Oscar Taveras, OF, St. Louis Cardinals
2013 Stats: .306/.341/.462, 17 XBH (5 HR), 32 RBI, 22/9 K/BB (46 G)
After spending roughly a month of the disabled listed with an ankle sprain, Taveras returned to action on June 8, but was noticeably playing through lingering pain. The injury also impacted his production, as the 21-year-old posted a .735 OPS with five extra-base hits over his next 15 games.
On Sunday, Taveras left Triple-A Memphis’ game after aggravating the injury while return to second base on a pickoff attempt. We may never know why his instincts had him slide feet first back to a base, but it landed him back on the disabled list. Luckily, the Cardinals are in a position where they can offer him additional time to rest and rehab in anticipation of a likely call-up later in the season.
2. Byron Buxton, OF, Minnesota Twins
2013 Stats: .340/.426/.546, 72 R, 34 XBH (8 HR), 33 SB, 61/45 K/BB (73 G)
While Taveras may be ranked as the No. 1 prospect at the moment, it’s become common knowledge that Byron Buxton is the top prospect in baseball. And while I have your attention, be sure to read this outstanding article on the 19-year-old phenom by J.J. Cooper of Baseball America.
After destroying the Midwest League to the tune of .341/.431/.559 with 15 doubles, 10 triples, eight home runs, 32 stolen bases and 56/44 K/BB through 68 games, the Twins recently promoted Buxton to High-A Fort Myers in the pitcher-friendly Florida State League. Clearly he doesn’t buy into the stigma, as he’s batted .333 with four runs scored through five games.
He’s a future superstar and will arrive earlier than we all expected.
Stock: Way Up
3. Xander Bogaerts, SS, Boston Red Sox
2013 Stats: .297/.391/.488, 28 XBH (10 HR), 7 SB, 66/43 K/BB (73 G)
After posting a .909 OPS through his first 56 games for Double-A Portland, the Red Sox promoted Bogaerts to Triple-A Pawtucket in early June. The 20-year-old shortstop has responded favorably to the more advanced level, as he’s batted .250/.333/.438 with four home runs and 15/8 K/BB through 17 games. More importantly, it seems increasingly likely that he’ll contribute in the major leagues later this season.
4. Christian Yelich, OF, Miami Marlins
2013 Stats: .264/.338/.511, 25 XBH (6 HR), 4 SB, 53/20 K/BB (44 G)
Yelich landed on the disabled list with an abdominal strain in early June—his second stint on the disabled list in 2013—and only recent began a rehab assignment. The Marlins will obviously proceed cautiously with their top prospect, which is why they sent him to the Gulf Coast League before ultimately returning him to Double-A Jacksonville. As long as he remains healthy, the 21-year-old is likely to reach the major leagues later this season.
5. Miguel Sano, 3B, Minnesota Twins
2013 Stats: .306/.399/.646, 43 XBH (22 HR), 9 SB, 81/39 K/BB (75 G)
After breezing through the Florida State League with a 1.079 OPS and 16 home runs in 56 games, Sano hasn’t made a seamless adjustment to Double-A. But even though he’s batted only .226 at the more advanced level, the 20-year-old has already launched six home runs with a respectable 20/10 K/BB through his first 19 games. It’ll be interesting to see who makes it to the major leagues first, Sano or Buxton. My guess is that they arrive within a month or two of each other in late 2014.
6. Taijuan Walker, RHP, Seattle Mariners
2013 Stats: 90 IP, 2.30 ERA, .191 BAA, 100/32 K/BB (15 GS)
Beyond the obvious improvements in his stuff and command, Walker’s ability to make adjustments this season has separated him from the field. After mastering the Southern League with a 2.46 ERA with 96/30 K/BB in 84 innings for Double-A Jackson, the 20-year-old has (amazingly) been even more impressive following a recent promotion to Triple-A Tacoma.
Through his first two starts, the right-hander has allowed five hits over 11 scoreless frames while posting a dazzling 12/4 K/BB. It’s difficult to predict how the Mariners will handle his development during the remainder of the season; there’s no need to overexpose him in the Pacific Coast League, but at the same time, it won’t be easy to keep him in the minors when he’s pitching so well.
7. Francisco Lindor, SS, Cleveland Indians
2013 Stats: .307/.378/.411, 23 XBH (5 3B), 19 SB, 32/33 K/BB (74 G)
After opening the season on a tear with a .911 OPS in April, Lindor cooled off over the subsequent months with a .738 OPS in May and .728 OPS in June. Regardless, the 19-year-old’s overall body of work as one of the youngest everyday players at the High-A level is amazing.
A switch-hitter, Lindor has thrived from the left side of the plate this season with a .335/.408/.445 batting line in 227 at-bats. But from his natural right side, he’s batted just .219/.275/.297 in 64 at-bats. Both his instincts and ability to control the pace of the game are special and have really stood out this season through the improvement of his secondary skills.
8. Wil Myers, OF, Tampa Bay Rays
2013 Stats (MLB): .293/.329/.466, 4 XBH (3 HR), 10 RBI, 17/3 K/BB (13 G)
Since making his highly anticipated debut on June 18, Myers has quickly emerged as a main cog in Tampa Bay’s uncharacteristically potent offense—so much so that manager Joe Maddon batted him third on Monday night.
The 22-year-old outfielder has now hit safely in 12 of 14 games and is batting .317 with six runs scored, three home runs and RBI over his last 10 contests. His 17/4 K/BB rate leaves something to be desired, but isn’t surprising or a concern given his previous success with a power-oriented approach.
9. Zack Wheeler, RHP, New York Mets
2013 Stats (MLB): 16 IP, 5.06 ERA, .233 BAA, 13/10 K/BB (3 GS)
Wheeler was impressive in his debut against Atlanta on June 18, but since then he’s gotten progressively worse. While his start against the White Sox can be chalked up to tipping pitches from the stretch, the right-hander’s follow-up outing (and home debut) against the Nationals on Sunday was rough. Wheeler needed 89 (54 strikes) pitches to complete 4.2 innings, allowing five earned runs on six hits (two home runs) and two walks.
While it was nice to see him record five strikeouts after fanning only one batter against Chicago, the 23-year-old will need to improve his control moving forward or likely face a return to Triple-A for further seasoning.
10. Archie Bradley, RHP, Arizona Diamondbacks
2013 Stats: 95.1 IP, 1.79 ERA, .204 BAA, 110/39 K/BB (16 GS)
After turning in his worst outing of the season on June 22 (5 IP, 7 H, 6 ER), Bradley bounced back in dominant fashion with a gem against Double-A Jackson on Friday. The 20-year-old right-hander allowed three runs (zero earned) on three hits over 7.2 innings while recording seven strikeouts and two runs. The outing marked the fifth time this season that he’s allowed zero earned runs.