Predicting MLB ETAs for the Top Stars of the 2013 All-Star Futures Game

Adam WellsFeatured ColumnistJuly 14, 2013

Predicting MLB ETAs for the Top Stars of the 2013 All-Star Futures Game

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    Sunday at Citi Field is catnip for baseball lovers and prospect lovers alike, with 52 minor leaguers—some representing the best Minor League Baseball has to offer, others just filling out a roster—taking part in the 2013 Futures Game. 

    However, as much fun as it is to think about Rafael De Paula throwing 98-mph fastballs with Byron Buxton in the batter's box now, the only thing that matters is what they'll do when they reach the big league level. 

    Obviously, not all the players in this game will make it to the big leagues. And others will fail to reach their ceiling when they do get there. But that is what makes this game, and prospects in general, so interesting. 

    The dream of what they could be is why we follow them from the draft through the dog days of Arizona Rookie League, all the way to Double-A and Triple-A before they're called up to The Show. 

    In anticipation of this year's Futures Game, here is a look at the top 20 prospects, listed in alphabetical order by their MLB team name, in the game and our best estimate of when you might see them in the big leagues. 

     

    Note: All stats courtesy of MiLB.com unless otherwise noted. 

Archie Bradley, RHP, Arizona Diamondbacks

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    Current Level: Double-A (Mobile)

    Age: 20

     

    After struggling to throw strikes consistently in his first pro season, Archie Bradley took several steps forward in 2013.

    His plus-plus fastball-curveball combination gives him the upside of a No. 1 starter, and the development of his changeup, as well as his ability to throw the ball over the plate regularly, has greatly escalated his time frame to pitch in Arizona. 

    There are still command issues, and the move to Double-A showed that some of the control problems aren't completely gone (34 walks in 76 innings), but Bradley could make it to the big leagues before the All-Star break next season. 

    MLB ETA: 2014

Xander Bogaerts, SS, Boston Red Sox

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    Current Level: Triple-A (Pawtucket)

    Age: 20

     

    The Red Sox have been aggressive with Xander Bogaerts the last two years, pushing him to Double-A at the end of 2012 and to Triple-A two months into this season, and he has come through every move with flying colors. 

    Just 20 years old at Pawtucket, Bogaerts has already hit seven home runs with a slash line of .267/.357/.475 in 28 games. Even better news is the development of his plate discipline and patience, as he has already walked 49 times (five more than he did in all of 2012). 

    Bogaerts has tremendous raw power and great bat speed. His body hasn't grown out of control yet, to the point where he should be capable of playing shortstop for a few years before moving to third base. His offensive upside at shortstop, even with average defense, makes him a potential superstar. 

    MLB ETA: 2014

Jorge Soler, OF, Chicago Cubs

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    Jorge Soler was selected to the Futures Game but will not participate due to an injury.

    Current Level: High-A (Daytona)

    Age: 21

     

    Despite one bat-waving incident that caused some uproar, Jorge Soler has lived up to the hype. Showing an advanced approach with more game power than expected, at least initially, the Cuban outfielder looks like a potential star with the floor of an average big leaguer. 

    Playing time is the only thing that has prevented the Cubs from moving Soler up, as he has played just 55 games this season due to the suspension for the bat incident. And now, a stress fracture in his left leg could end his year. That will also delay his MLB timetable. 

    MLB ETA: 2015

Francisco Lindor, SS, Cleveland Indians

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    Current Level: Double-A (Akron)

    Age: 19

     

    Francisco Lindor doesn't have the highest ceiling among players in the Futures Game because his power potential is so limited. It likely won't be better than fringe-average. But his floor is higher than almost anyone else in the game thanks to his advanced approach and feel for the game. 

    Just 19 in High-A, Lindor is showing an incredible feel for hitting with a 39-35 strikeout-to-walk ratio and a .307/.375/.412 slash line. He is able to drive the ball to the gaps thanks to good bat speed and some muscle, so there aren't any doubts about his ability to hit like there are with, say, Billy Hamilton. 

    Defensively is where Lindor really shines, though. He has a plus glove at shortstop with soft hands, great footwork and above-average range that plays better because of his ability to read the ball off the bat and position himself perfectly. His arm strength and accuracy are both plus as well.

    Considering how well-developed he is already, Lindor could make it to the big leagues as a 20-year-old. The Indians have already shown how far along they believe he is, as the 19-year-old was promoted to Double-A on Saturday, per Dennis Manoloff of The Plain Dealer

    MLB ETA: 2014

Carlos Correa, SS, Houston Astros

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    Carlos Correa was voted onto the roster by the fans in the Futures Game Final Vote.

    Current Level: Low-A (Quad Cities)

    Age: 18

     

    Words can't begin to describe how happy I personally am to see Carlos Correa play in the Futures Game, because I feel like fans are forgetting him due to the incredible debut of Byron Buxton (who is also in the game and has already been bumped up to High-A). 

    Correa may not have taken the Midwest League by storm like Buxton did, but being nine months younger in a full-season league and having a .322/.421/.456 line with 24 extra-base hits and a 51-42 strikeout-to-walk ratio in a pitcher-friendly league speaks volumes about how talented the No. 1 pick in the 2012 draft is. 

    Still growing into his home run power, Correa's natural hitting ability is playing better than anyone could have expected already. He has one of the best swings in the minors and shows plus pitch recognition and discipline. 

    The Astros have understandably taken things slow with Correa, but next year could see him rise quickly. 

    MLB ETA: 2015

Yordano Ventura, RHP, Kansas City Royals

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    Current Level: Triple-A (Omaha)

    Age: 22

     

    There might not be a pitcher better constructed for a one-inning showcase game than Yordano Ventura. The Royals prospect regularly hits triple digits with his fastball and backs it up with a plus curveball. His arm strength and speed are also incredible.

    Concerns about his small frame and ability to handle a huge workload could push him to the bullpen, but his stuff and delivery are good enough for him to be a starter. 

    MLB ETA: 2014

Christian Yelich, OF, Miami Marlins

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    Current Level: Double-A (Jacksonville)

    Age: 21

     

    Christian Yelich's season has been interrupted with two different injuries, one to his foot and the other to his abs, and that has negatively impacted his overall stat line (.252/.333/.486). 

    But at full strength, he has a strong claim to being one of the best pure hitters in the minors. He has a beautiful left-handed stroke with great control of the strike zone. He has the plate coverage to drive the ball all over the field. 

    Yelich's ability to hit has helped him tap into above-average raw power, and he now projects as a 20-25 homer player in the big leagues.

    Add to that the fact that he will likely win a batting title or two and that he has grown into an above-average defender in center field, and Yelich looks like a superstar and fixture in Miami's outfield for the next five years.

    I would say longer, but we know the Marlins don't like to keep players when they start making money.

    MLB ETA: 2014

Byron Buxton, OF, Minnesota Twins

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    Current Level: High-A (Fort Myers)

    Age: 19

     

    The breakout prospect of 2013, Byron Buxton is drawing comparisons that you will rarely hear thrown around. Mike Trout is the most obvious, just because the two play the same position, boast similar tools and Trout came along so recently that people can identify with how special Buxton is. 

    It should be noted that, as great as Buxton projects to be, at the same age, Trout was already tearing up Double-A. Regardless, Buxton is a superstar and the best prospect in baseball right now.

    He was thought to be raw coming out of a small Georgia high school, but his hit tool, power, speed, defense and all-around approach to the game have proven to be far more advanced than anyone could have anticipated. 

    The fact that the Twins have already pushed Buxton to High-A shows that they believe he is going to move quickly and be a fixture in All-Star Games for years to come. 

    MLB ETA: 2015

Miguel Sano, 3B, Minnesota Twins

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    Current Level: Double-A (New Britain)

    Age: 20

     

    Miguel Sano garners attention for his incredible power, which is a true 80-grade tool, and he can hit the ball as hard and far as anyone in baseball. But it is the development of his hit tool and better-than-expected defense at third base that put him in the elite category of prospects. 

    The strikeouts will always be there with Sano (90 in 292 at-bats this season), as he has a high-leverage swing and doesn't really shorten up to put the ball in play. But his pitch recognition and strike-zone awareness, as well as elite bat speed, have gotten so much better this season that he projects to hit in the .260 range with a ton of walks. When you combine that with 35-plus homers, Sano will be a superstar. 

    Defensively, he has been a pleasant surprise. Despite boasting a huge 6'3", 240-pound frame, Sano has better range and footwork at the hot corner than he ever has, and he is surprisingly quick for a player his size. He may only be an average glove at third, but that is far better than anyone would have predicted one year ago. 

    MLB ETA: 2014

Noah Syndergaard, RHP, New York Mets

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    Current Level: Double-A (Binghamton)

    Age: 20

     

    The Mets acquired Noah Syndergaard from Toronto in the R.A. Dickey trade last winter, hoping to eventually put him alongside Matt Harvey and Zack Wheeler to form one of the best pitching trios in baseball.

    The tall right-hander continues to thrive in the minors. 

    Working with a plus-plus fastball and a curveball that flashes plus, though it lacks consistent shape and the command is spotty, Syndergaard has all the makings of a very good No. 2 starter.

    He uses every bit of his 6'6", 240-pound frame to drive the ball to the plate, but he still has work to do throwing quality strikes. His breaking ball will have to get better in order to get lefties out. 

    MLB ETA: 2014

Rafael DePaula, RHP, New York Yankees

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    Current Level: High-A (Tampa)

    Age: 22

     

    Rafael DePaula has popped up on the radar this year thanks to a plus-plus fastball and an improved curveball. He struck out 96 in 64.1 innings at Low-A before the Yankees bumped him to High-A Tampa. 

    Of course, DePaula did that at an age where he was more physically developed than a lot of players he was going up against. That doesn't change the fact that he has incredible stuff, but there is a wide gap between what he could become and his floor, and it's hard to say where he is. 

    Control of his entire arsenal is still something that DePaula is working out. He's been hit hard in a small sample of 14.2 innings at High-A, allowing 18 hits and 11 runs. The future is bright for the young Dominican, but it might be a little further away than other players'.

    MLB ETA: 2015

Addison Russell, SS, Oakland Athletics

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    Current Level: High-A (Stockton)

    Age: 19

     

    Addison Russell has had a very nice bounce back after a slow start, hitting .333/.367/.622 with 17 extra-base hits and seven stolen bases in 90 June at-bats and a .311/.392/.444 line so far in July. 

    Still growing into his long 6'0" frame, he has dispelled any doubts that he will be able to stay at shortstop. His athleticism, footwork, plus range and arm strength make him a natural at the position. 

    Add to that the fact Russell's offensive ceiling projects very well, with more power coming in the future, plus bat speed and foot speed and the ability to square up the ball. He is one of the youngest players in the California League and is holding his own.

    He will be in Oakland sooner rather than later, though a full season at Double-A next year might not hurt. 

    MLB ETA: 2015

Maikel Franco, 3B, Philadelphia Phillies

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    Current Level: Double-A (Reading)

    Age: 20

     

    After ripping through High-A with a .299/.349/.576 line in 65 games, Maikel Franco forced a promotion to Double-A.

    He is still hitting like a mad man, but a lack of athleticism, speed and some flaws in his swing, like an unusual arm bar and big load hurting his bat speed, don't make his overall ceiling as great as the numbers suggest. 

    The one thing Franco does have working for him is power, which is plus and in short supply.

    I don't see him staying at third base long-term—or at least not being effective—because he doesn't have good footwork or range. But if the pitch recognition improves, the 20-year-old could turn into a 20-homer player with a .250-.260 average. 

    MLB ETA: 2014

Gregory Polanco, OF, Pittsburgh Pirates

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    Current Level: Double-A (Altoona)

    Age: 21

     

    Gregory Polanco continues to impress in a short 21-game stint at Double-A, hitting .277/.355/.398 in 83 at-bats. He is a true five-tool talent with the potential to have three plus tools (speed, defense and power). 

    Still filling out his 6'4" frame, Polanco will need more time before we see exactly what the finished product will look like. But considering how well he has performed the last two years, adjusting from a raw talent to a true prospect, the Pirates could have another star in their outfield very soon. 

    MLB ETA: 2015

Austin Hedges, C, San Diego Padres

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    Current Level: High-A (Lake Elsinore)

    Age: 20

     

    Austin Hedges has a chance to be a Yadier Molina-caliber player, though he may not hit quite as well as the Cardinals catcher. Hedges' defense is that good, with a great throwing arm, athleticism, blocking and receiving skills.

    He is also an advanced hitter, displaying patience, pitch recognition and the potential to grow into average or better power. 

    MLB ETA: 2015

Taijuan Walker, RHP, Seattle Mariners

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    Current Level: Triple-A (Tacoma)

    Age: 20

     

    Taijuan Walker has been on a fast track to the big leagues ever since he picked apart the Midwest League in 2009. The Mariners pushed the star right-hander to Double-A as a 19-year-old last year. He had some command issues in Double-A, but he more than held his own. 

    The control is still ahead of the command, but Walker's electric stuff (plus-plus fastball, plus curveball), powerful frame and easy delivery give him the ceiling of a No. 1 starter. He will be in Seattle very soon. 

    MLB ETA: 2014

Kyle Crick, RHP, San Francisco Giants

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    Current Level: High-A (San Jose)

    Age: 20

     

    Already physically developed at 6'4", 220 pounds and boasting an arsenal with two plus pitches (fastball, curveball), Kyle Crick is going to be the next top-of-the-rotation Giants starter that San Francisco always seems to churn out. 

    Crick has been hurt and only managed to throw 29.2 innings this season, but he has amassed 44 strikeouts. He has also walked 19, so the command and control are still a work in progress.

    The stuff is there, though, and when everything clicks, look out. 

    MLB ETA: 2015

Oscar Taveras, OF, St. Louis Cardinals

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    Oscar Taveras was selected to the Futures Game but will not participate due to injury. 

    Current Level: Triple-A (Memphis)

    Age: 21

     

    Oscar Taveras was the best prospect in the game before Byron Buxton stole his thunder—not that there is anything wrong with being No. 2 or that his status has dropped. The only thing stopping the Cardinals outfielder right now is the injury bug, as he is battling an ankle sprain that will keep him out of the Futures Game. 

    The best all-around hitter in the minors, Taveras could be called up to the big leagues the day he comes off the disabled list and no one would wonder why. But more likely, he will wait until Opening Day 2014 to start his St. Louis career, especially since the Cardinals don't have a need for another outfielder right now. 

    MLB ETA: 2014

Kolten Wong, 2B, St. Louis Cardinals

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    Current Level: Triple-A (Memphis)

    Age: 22

     

    Kolten Wong is one of those prospects who doesn't do a lot of things that stand out but is solid in every aspect of the game. His best tool is hitting, where he shows a knack for squaring up pitches and driving them into the gap and a strong understanding of the strike zone. 

    Even though his overall power is fringe-average, he is going to hit a ton of doubles because he makes solid contact and isn't afraid to go the other way.

    Like Taveras, Wong's only roadblock to the big leagues right now is the fact the Cardinals are set at second base with Matt Carpenter. 

    MLB ETA: 2014

A.J. Cole, RHP, Washington Nationals

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    Current Level: High-A (Potomac)

    Age: 21

     

    A.J. Cole is among the more frustrating pitchers to watch. He has the stuff to be a top prospect and rotation stalwart in the future, as well as a very good delivery in a physical 6'4" frame. He has always struck out more than one batter per inning pitched. 

    But the numbers don't always tell the whole story. Cole has struggled with consistency and control, never more than this year, when he's allowed 94 hits in 91.1 innings. He can show three above-average or better pitches, but he's still learning how to pitch rather than throw. 

    MLB ETA: 2015

     

    If you want to talk prospects, or anything else baseball related, feel free to hit me on Twitter with questions or comments.