Comparing Each of MLB's Top 10 Prospects to a Current MLB Star
Although every top MLB prospect has a unique background and personality, we can't help but compare the top 10 to current major league stars. The objective is to find doppelgangers who share numerous strengths, weaknesses and physical features, as well as overall potential.
Everybody seems to have an opinion about who the top minor league players are entering the second half of the 2013 season, but this evaluation from Bleacher Report's Mike Rosenbaum is as thorough as any you'll come across. Read the full top-50 list if you haven't already.
When comparing developing pitchers to some of baseball's elite, we tried to match up guys based on size, handedness, mechanics, mix of pitches and velocity. For position players, it was about raw tools, defensive profile (not necessarily specific position) and general instincts. Race and country of origin weren't taken into consideration.
Keep in mind that all of these projections are incredibly optimistic. Phil Hughes (New York Yankees) and Travis Snider (Pittsburgh Pirates), for example, were lauded as top-10 prospects by major publications once upon a time, and they sure haven't ascended to stardom.
Rather, the following are best-case scenarios for the sport's elite youngsters.
10. Jameson Taillon, RHP, Pittsburgh Pirates: Adam Wainwright (Cardinals)
Height/Weight: 6’6”, 235
Taken No. 2 overall in the 2010 amateur draft, Jameson Taillon has been highly regarded since he first set foot on a minor league mound. Given his lanky frame, plus curveball and high-90s heater, it's easy to project him for the top of an MLB rotation.
The 21-year-old neutralizes left-handed batters and should be able to do so at any level once he fully incorporates a changeup into his game plan.
Taillon also has to work on polishing his delivery, especially out of the stretch. It's way too easy to run against him at this point.
Adam Wainwright is among the tallest starting pitchers in the majors, not to mention one of the best. He's going to be a serious NL Cy Young Award contender for the third time in five seasons thanks to excellent pitch efficiency.
You'll notice an eerie resemblance between Taillon and Wainwright based on their minor league numbers. There's hardly any difference in terms of strikeout-to-walk ratio, batting average against and earned run average. Another important shared skill is their suppression of home runs and extra-base hits in general.
9. Addison Russell, SS, Oakland Athletics: Adrian Beltre (Texas Rangers)
Height/Weight: 6’0", 195
Because of his thick build, Addison Russell has faced plenty of skepticism about staying at shortstop long-term. So far, there's been nothing to criticize in terms his range, instincts or glove work.
Russell obliterated rookie ball after being selected in the 2012 draft—1.027 OPS in 55 games—and a promotion to Double-A seems imminent. Pretty impressive progress for a 19-year-old.
He takes huge swings every time and should eventually show 20-homer power. Until then, he'll use his great speed to stretch doubles into triples and singles into extra-base hits. Russell also steals bases very efficiently.
Adrian Beltre packs on a few extra pounds and stands an inch shorter. Otherwise, similarities abound between these two.
Like Russell, Beltre moved quickly through the minor leagues and flaunts excellent arm strength and accuracy. Both players can be seen dropping to their front knees after a particularly vicious hack (courtesy of MLB.com).
Hardly anyone has been more durable than Beltre, who averaged 146 games player per season from 1999 to 2012. Even in his mid-30s, he's not far behind Miguel Cabrera, Ryan Braun and Paul Goldschmidt in the "best right-handed hitter in the world" rankings.
8. Christian Yelich, OF, Miami Marlins: Dexter Fowler (Colorado Rockies)
Height/Weight: 6’4”, 195
Christian Yelich and Dexter Fowler share the same lanky, 6'4" frame, although Yelich may fill out a little more as he ages.
Both spent full seasons in the South Atlantic League during their careers—Yelich in 2011 at age 19 and Fowler as a 20-year-old in 2006. Here's how they compared statistically against that Single-A competition:
Yelich: .312/.388/.484, 15 HR, 32 SB, 102/55 K/BB in 521 PA
Fowler: .296/.373/.462, 8 HR, 43 SB, 79/43 K/BB in 458 PA
When swinging from the left side, the switch-hitting Fowler possesses about average power for a center fielder. He does, however, have a tendency to pull the ball, whereas Yelich spreads the ball to all fields.
The Miami Marlins won't necessarily keep their former first-round pick in center. Yelich has great instincts for the position, but not exceptional speed.
Oblique and foot injuries have limited Yelich's playing time in 2013. His dramatic platoon splits concern ESPN Insider Keith Law (subscription required), who figured Yelich would be able to adjust.
7. Archie Bradley, RHP, Arizona Diamondbacks: Felix Hernandez (Mariners)
Height/Weight: 6’4”, 225
Archie Bradley has made considerable progress in 2013 alone.
He's commanding his mid-90s fastball better without compromising velocity, and his changeup is gradually developing into a major league-caliber offering. The best feature of Bradley's repertoire is his sharp curveball, which has enough downward movement to finish off batters at any level.
His athletic build and mechanics promise a low risk of injury.
When Felix Hernandez initially came up with the Seattle Mariners, he used the same type of overwhelming heater.
However, FanGraphs shows us how Hernandez progressively modified his pitch selection once heavy workloads began to wear him down. That's why he's striking out more opponents than ever in his ninth major league season.
To follow in King Felix's footsteps, Bradley will need to refine his changeup and keep up his conditioning.
6. Miguel Sano, 3B, Minnesota Twins: Paul Goldschmidt (Arizona Diamondbacks)
Height/Weight: 6’3”, 195
Miguel Sano checks in at No. 6 overall with the best raw power of any minor league player in organized baseball. Since 2011, he has averaged a home run about every 17 plate appearances.
Because of Sano's bloated strikeout rate, we shouldn't put him in Miguel Cabrera's class. He still has to address holes in his swing and learn to anticipate pitch sequence.
The Minnesota Twins are committed to developing him as a third baseman. Sano certainly has the arm to stick at the hot corner, but questionable glove skills and footwork may force him to move across the diamond.
That wouldn't be such a bad thing. Paul Goldschmidt is limited to first base yet is flashing MVP potential in his second full major league season.
Goldschmidt swings with the same kind of natural loft and the mindset of sending pitches up the middle or to the opposite field. The 20-year-old Sano will have his physique once he fills out.
5. Taijuan Walker, RHP, Seattle Mariners: Matt Harvey (New York Mets)
Height/Weight: 6’4”, 210
Even against mostly older opponents, Taijuan Walker is enjoying one of the most dominant seasons of any pitching prospect. As of July 21, his 2013 performance at Double-A and Triple-A is summed up by a 2.14 ERA, 1.04 WHIP and .193 BAA.
Walker's fastball sits in the mid-90s, but he can dial it up to 97-98 mph, even during the later innings. His fluid, repeatable mechanics separate him from other flamethrowers and explain why his walk rate has gradually improved at each phase of development.
The key to Matt Harvey's rise to prominence—aside from a great sense of humor—is his mix of four plus pitches. Walker can reach superstardom too if his cutter eventually serves the same purpose as Harvey's slider.
The New York Mets ace is a nightmare for opposing baserunners. Both he and Walker make stealing next to impossible by getting rid of the ball quickly and with awesome velocity.
4. Francisco Lindor, SS, Cleveland Indians: Dustin Pedroia (Boston Red Sox)
DOB: 11/14/1993 (Age: 19)
Height/Weight: 5’11”, 175
On the strength of awesome defense, Francisco Lindor has perhaps the highest floor of any prospect. His incredible arm, range and instincts ensure he'll be starting in the middle infield for many years.
The switch-hitting shortstop demonstrates advanced pitch recognition. He has drawn nearly as many walks as strikeouts in three minor league seasons.
Lindor's teammates, coaches and management rave about his intangibles, understanding of the game and addiction to winning.
Dustin Pedroia only bats from the right side, but you wouldn't know it from his career platoon splits. He has batted better than .300 against both left-handers and right-handers.
His diminutive 5'8" stature doesn't impair his fielding, which has already earned him two American League Gold Gloves.
Lindor should aspire to put balls in play as frequently as Pedroia does. The latter owns one of baseball's lowest strikeout rates since debuting for the Boston Red Sox in 2006.
3. Xander Bogaerts, SS, Boston Red Sox: Hanley Ramirez (Los Angeles Dodgers)
Height/Weight: 6’3”, 185
Xander Bogaerts pulverizes balls to all fields. He has an envious combination of tremendous bat speed and raw power, so he should be an extra-base machine when he gets a major league call-up (likely this September).
Compared to his previous professional seasons, this native of Aruba is more disciplined at the plate. Bogaerts has been drawing walks at an above-average rate in 2013 while whiffing less often, though there's still some progress to be made in both departments.
Despite his size, the 20-year-old has sufficient arm strength, range and reaction time to stick at shortstop if necessary. His athleticism would also facilitate a smooth transition to third base or a corner outfield spot.
Similar to Bogaerts, Hanley Ramirez signed with the Boston Red Sox organization as a teenage shortstop. With the exception of last summer, he's been able to stick at the position (albeit with mostly mediocre results).
Both players employ an upright stance from the right side and demonstrate exceptional gap-to-gap power.
The glaring difference between Ramirez and baseball's No. 3 prospect is the high-volume base stealing during the early portion of Ramirez's career. Bogaerts has never been much more than an average runner, evident from his low single-season steals totals.
2. Oscar Taveras, OF, St. Louis Cardinals: Robinson Cano (New York Yankees)
Height/Weight: 6’2”, 200
The St. Louis Cardinals have developed not-so-toolsy players like Matt Carpenter and Allen Craig into All-Stars. Imagine how dangerous a legitimate can't-miss talent could become after buying into their philosophy.
We'll find out shortly when Oscar Taveras makes the final leap to the big leagues. The 21-year-old was slashing .306/.341/.462 at Triple-A before suffering an ankle sprain. According to MLB.com's Teddy Cahill, he's in the final stages of rehab.
Taveras' power only arrived in 2012, but he has consistently shown a balanced swing and willingness to use the whole field. His impeccable hand-eye coordination ensures a low strikeout rate.
Although more experienced at center field, he's probably going to slide over to right in the majors, where his average speed wouldn't be a liability.
There isn't any active superstar outfielder quite like Taveras. Meanwhile, second baseman Robinson Cano shares his gorgeous left-handed swing, super-aggressive approach at the plate and composure in various counts and matchups.
Interestingly, both guys have struggled against southpaws in 2013 despite never doing so previously. Don't expect that to continue.
1. Byron Buxton, OF, Minnesota Twins: Mike Trout (Los Angeles Angels)
Height/Weight: 6’2”, 189
Byron Buxton makes professional baseball look so easy.
He has somewhat of a wiry build, but his strong wrists generate plenty of bat speed, hence a career slugging percentage that's flirting with .500. He's cutting down on the swings-and-misses thanks to a compact stroke with no wasted movement.
The 19-year-old already shows the elite range and instincts to patrol center field in the majors. Remember this catch? A great read and great finish.
In two minor league seasons, Buxton has averaged about one stolen base every three games. With plus-plus speed, he'll be running with similar frequency whenever he gets to the highest level.
Mike Trout came into the Los Angeles Angels organization with a thicker build, but his raw tools generated comparable statistics.
The 2012 AL Rookie of the Year also stands 6'2" and swings from the right side. We've seen time and time again that he also has the tendency to save runs with his glove (via MLB.com).
Buxton has a legitimate shot of joining the Minnesota Twins roster late in 2014, when he'll be 20 years old. If the Georgia native is really as Trout-like as his stats and evaluations suggest, success should come soon after his debut.