Final Predictions for Prospects Making Every MLB Team's 25-Man Roster
With spring training gradually winding down, teams have been busily cutting players (mostly prospects) from big league camp as they come closer toward finalizing a 25-man roster.
As a result, battles for remaining roster spots have finally taken shape. And, surprisingly, there’s a decent-sized contingent of prospects who are seemingly still in the mix to open the regular season with their respective organization.
While players such as Xander Bogaerts, Nick Castellanos and Yordano Ventura have already established themselves as locks for an Opening Day roster, there are other prospects, such as Chris Owings, Stefen Romero and Mike Olt, who have survived camp longer than expected.
But do they actually stand a chance at making the 25-man roster?
Here are my predictions for the top prospects from each team who will open the 2014 season in the major leagues.
All stats courtesy of MLB.com.
Roster projections courtesy of MLBDepthCharts.com, unless otherwise noted.
Better Luck Next Year...
Teams that aren't expected to open the season with a notable prospect on its 25-man roster:
- Toronto Blue Jays
- Cleveland Indians
- Houston Astros
- Miami Marlins
- Philadelphia Phillies
- Los Angeles Dodgers
Jonathan Schoop, INF
Spring Training Stats: .400 (12-for-30), 4 2B, HR, 6 RBI, 3 BB, 9 K (15 G)
After reaching the major leagues last year as a September call-up, Jonathan Schoop has done everything in his power this to earn a spot on Baltimore’s Opening Day roster in 2014. Yet, the 22-year-old’s chances of opening the season with the big league club have more to do with other players rather than his own performance.
With the recent news that Manny Machado is experiencing discomfort in his surgically repaired left knee, per Brittany Ghiroli of MLB.com, it’s likely that Ryan Flaherty, who was originally expected to open the year as the Orioles’ second baseman over Schoop, will move to third base until Machado is cleared to return.
As a result, Schoop is now competing with Jemile Weeks at the keystone, and we all know which of those two players has more upside.
Boston Red Sox
Jackie Bradley, OF
Spring Training Stats: .200 (8-for-40), 4 2B, 3B, 4 RBI, 3 BB, 12 K (13 G)
Bradley batted .419 in 28 games last spring and forced his way onto Boston’s Opening Day roster, but he then struggled to hold his own in the major leagues, posting a .189 batting average and 31 strikeouts in 37 games.
Still, following the departure of Jacoby Ellsbury this offseason via free agency, the 23-year-old Bradley entered spring training as the favorite to take over in center field.
Bradley hasn’t helped his cause thus far, though, with a .189 batting average and 11 strikeouts in 37 at-bats this spring, which in turn has opened the door for a resurgent Grady Sizemore. However, due to concerns about Sizemore’s durability—not to mention the fact that he hasn’t played in the major leagues since 2011—Bradley is likely to get the starting nod on Opening Day.
Xander Bogaerts, SS
Spring Training Stats: .194 (6-for-31), 2 2B, HR, 4 RBI, 6 BB, 6 K (13 G)
Xander Bogaerts emerged as a star during the 2013 postseason, batting .296/.412/.481 with nine runs scored, four extra-base hits and six walks in 12 games. More significantly, his performance convinced the Red Sox that he’d be ready to take over as the team's everyday shortstop in 2014.
The 21-year-old is a notoriously slow starter, so don’t read too far into his early struggles this spring; we all know he’s a stud. He may struggle at times over the course of a full season in the major leagues, but I'd be shocked if Bogaerts isn't among the finalists for the 2014 American League Rookie of the Year Award.
New York Yankees
Dellin Betances, RHP
Spring Training Stats: 9.2 IP, 4 H, ER, 4 BB, 8 K (7 G)
If it feels as though Dellin Betances has been in the Yankees’ farm system for an eternity—and it’s probably because he has been. An eighth-round draft pick in 2006 out of a local high school, the 6’8” right-hander was viewed as one of the team’s top prospects until 2012, when he registered a 6.44 ERA with 99 walks in 131.1 innings between Double-A and Triple-A.
The 25-year-old fared much better last season (2.68 ERA, 108/48 K/BB in 84 innings), however, after moving to the bullpen full-time—even returning to the major leagues in September—and he’s continued to open eyes in the same role this spring.
Expect him to break camp as a member of the Yankees' Opening Day bullpen.
Tampa Bay Rays
Jake Odorizzi, RHP
Spring Training Stats: 8.0 IP, 7 H, 2 ER, 5 BB, 5 K (4 G)
After serving as a swingman for the Rays last year, bouncing between the minor and major leagues, Jake Odorizzi entered spring training this year as the favorite to win the final spot in the Opening Day rotation. Though he’s technically still competing with Cesar Ramos and Erik Bedard, Odorizzi, 23, easily has the most upside and, more importantly, is ready for the challenge.
As reported by Bill Chastain of MLB.com, the team could make a decision as early as Saturday, with all three pitchers scheduled to throw on either Thursday or Friday.
Chicago White Sox
Adrian Nieto, C
Spring Training Stats: .267 (4-for-15), 2B, 5 RBI, 2 BB, 3 K (10 G)
Selected in the fifth round of the 2008 draft out of high school, Adrian Nieto had been slow to develop before a breakout campaign last season at High-A Potomac. Playing in a career-high 110 games—his previous high was 78 games—the 24-year-old batted .285/.373/.449 with 41 extra-base hits (11 home runs) and an 82-53 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 452 plate appearances.
Despite his lack of experience above the High-A level, the White Sox gambled on the 24-year-old in this year’s Rule 5 draft, targeting the switch-hitter as a potentially cheap backup catcher with modest upside.
After optioning Josh Phegley to Triple-A on Wednesday, it appears as though Nieto will break camp with the White Sox and bypass two crucial levels in the process.
Erik Johnson, RHP
Spring Training Stats: 11.0 IP, 15 H, 9 ER, 4 BB, 10 K (3 GS)
Coming off an impressive showing last year as a September call-up, Erik Johnson needed only two starts this spring to solidify his spot at the back end of the team's 2014 rotation. Even though the 24-year-old right-hander was shelled for seven earned run on eight hits in four innings on Wednesday, he’s still expected to break camp as the team’s No. 4 or 5 starter.
Marcus Semien, INF
Spring Training Stats: .379 (11-for-29), 4 2B, 6 BB, 5 K (18 G)
Marcus Semien ripped through Chicago’s farm system last season, putting up eye-opening numbers in Double-A and Triple-A before spending all of September in the major leagues.
The 23-year-old got off to a sluggish start this spring in his quest to win a spot on the Opening Day roster, but he’s been red-hot as of late, batting .615 (8-for-13) with four doubles during his current six-game hitting streak. Plus, Semien’s defensive versatility makes him an even more appealing roster candidate, especially with Gordon Beckham coming back from a strained oblique.
Nick Castellanos, 3B
Spring Training Stats: .400 (18-for-45), 7 2B, 2 HR, 16 RBI, 2 SB, 2 BB, 4 K (14 G)
Slated to begin the season as the team’s starting third baseman, Nick Castellanos, 22, has been one of the hottest hitters in baseball this spring, with a .400 batting average, nine extra-base hits and 16 RBI through 14 games.
Defensively, Castellanos will experience his share of hiccups this season at the hot corner, as the Tigers shifted him back to the position this spring after he served exclusively as an outfielder last season. Regardless, Castellanos' promising bat should always outweigh his shortcomings with the leather. Let’s just hope he left something in the tank for the regular season.
Eugenio Suarez, SS
Spring Training Stats: .200 (6-for-30), 2B, 3 RBI, BB, 7 K (14 G)
With the recent news that Jose Iglesias will open the season on the disabled list after suffering fractures in both shins, the Tigers are exploring internal solutions to replace the slick-fielding shortstop.
One of those options is 22-year-old Eugenio Suarez, who batted .264/.347/.396 with 30 doubles, 10 home runs and a 123-60 strikeout-to-walk ratio last season in 618 plate appearances between High-A Lakeland and Double-A Erie.
Even though he’s a true shortstop, Suarez is still raw defensively—evidenced by his 36 errors last season—and has too much swing-and-miss to his game. Still, he’s seemingly the best non-Stephen Drew option for the Tigers, should they choose that course of action.
Kansas City Royals
Yordano Ventura, RHP
Spring Training Stats: 15.1 IP, 10 H, 3 ER, BB, 15 K (4 G)
Yordano Ventura has been one of the most impressive pitchers in the league this spring, showcasing his usual triple-digit velocity and an improved feel for locating his secondaries.
Though he's been sharp in each of his last two outings, the 22-year-old right-hander was flat-out dominant on Monday night against the Rangers, as he scattered four hits and struck out six over six scoreless frames. Following the game, Ventura was officially named to the Royals' rotation, penciled in at the No. 3 spot.
Josmil Pinto, C
Spring Training Stats: .333 (5-for-15), 2B, 2 BB, 3 K (9 G)
Josmil Pinto offered a taste of his offensive potential last season as a September call-up, posting a .963 OPS with four home runs in 21 games.
The 24-year-old backstop has been slowed by a sore back this spring, but he’s been eased back into games over the past two weeks and is expected to be ready for the regular season. Pinto will likely open the year as Kurt Suzuki’s backup, but it’s only a matter of time until he takes over as the Twins’ primary option behind the plate.
Los Angeles Angels
Brian Moran, LHP
Spring Training Stats: 2.2 IP, 3 H, ER, 2 BB, 2 K (4 G)
Following his selection by the Blue Jays (from the Mariners) in this year’s Rule 5 draft, Brian Moran was traded to the Angels in exchange for $244,000 of international slot money.
Moran’s value as a big league reliever will depend on his effectiveness against same-side hitters. Last season, the 25-year-old held lefties to a .235 batting average and posted a 48-6 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 32.1 innings. He’s been used almost exclusively as a LOOGY this spring, which suggests the organization will use him in that role this season.
Expect Moran to earn a spot on the Angels’ Opening Day roster.
Michael Taylor, OF
Spring Training Stats: .320 (16-for-50), 5 2B, 3 HR, 10 RBI, 6 BB, 15 K (21 G)
After posting an .811 OPS with 57 home runs in 2,075 Triple-A plate appearances, it’s safe to say Michael Taylor has nothing left to prove in the minor leagues. However, after batting .135 in 81 plate appearances with the A’s over parts of the last three seasons, the 28-year-old is now out of options and fighting for a spot on the team's 25-man roster.
Besides the fact that he’s posted a 1.044 OPS and amassed nine extra-base hits this spring, the organization has additional incentive to open the season with Taylor as their fourth outfielder, as he’s unlikely to clear waivers in the event he’s released. So, expect him to either make the A’s roster or be traded before Opening Day.
James Paxton, LHP
Spring Training Stats: 13.0 IP, 13 H, 3 ER, BB, 8 K (4 GS)
Like Taijuan Walker, James Paxton impressed late last season as a September call-up, posting a 1.50 ERA with 21 strikeouts in 24 innings (four starts).
The 25-year-old left-hander has continued to open eyes this spring, as he’s walked only one batter through four starts. Furthermore, the injuries to both Hisashi Iwakuma and Walker has Paxton penciled in to the team's Opening Day rotation.
Stefen Romero, IF/OF
Spring Training Stats: .237 (9-for-38), 2 2B, 2 3B, 2 HR, 6 RBI, BB, 10 K (15 G)
The Mariners are taking a long look at Stefen Romero this spring, as he’s capable of playing both the infield and outfield, and he is also already on the team’s 40-man roster.
After going 0-for-12 in his first four games this spring, the 25-year-old outfielder has settled in at the dish, going 9-for-26 with five extra-base hits over his last 11 contests. The organization thinks highly of his right-handed bat, and it seems increasingly likely that Romero will win a bench spot on the Opening Day roster.
Michael Choice, OF
Spring Training Stats: .381 (16-for-42), 9 R, 3 2B, 2 HR, 7 RBI, BB, 8 K (19 G)
Acquired from the A’s during the offseason, Michael Choice, a first-round draft pick in 2010, is in a great position with his new (and hometown) club.
The 24-year-old entered spring training as an early favorite to land a platoon role in left field or as the team’s designated hitter, and he’s only improved his chances by batting .381 with five extra-base hits through 19 games this spring.
Don’t be surprised when Choice cracks the Rangers Opening Day lineup.
David Hale, RHP
Spring Training Stats: 12.1 IP, 14 H, 7 ER, 5 BB, 9 K (4 GS)
David Hale’s performance at Triple-A Gwinnett last past season ultimately earned the 26-year-old a late-season call-up to the major leagues. Making a pair of starts for the Braves, Hale posted a 0.82 ERA with 14 strikeouts in 11 innings. In his major league debut on Sept. 13 against San Diego, he struck out nine batters and scattered four hits over five scoreless innings.
With the recent elbow injuries to Kris Medlen and Brandon Beachy, Hale is a lock to open the season in the Braves’ rotation, presumably as the team’s No. 4 starter.
New York Mets
Travis d’Arnaud, C
Spring Training Stats: .133 (4-for-30), 2 2B, 4 BB, 5 K (12 G)
Travis d’Arnaud finally reached the major leagues last August, in spite of a foot injury that limited him to only 32 games in the minors. Understandably, the 25-year-old struggled to find himself at the plate after spending nearly four months on the disabled list, and he finished the season with a disappointing .548 OPS in 31 games.
Granted, that’s a small sample size, but things haven’t gone well for d’Arnaud this spring, either, as he’s currently mired in an 0-for-19 slump over his last seven games and batting .133 overall. Even though he’s still at the top of the depth chart behind the plate, it wouldn’t be surprising to see Anthony Recker receive a few extra starts early in the season.
Vic Black, RHP
Spring Training Stats: 6.0 IP, 10 H, 4 ER, 8 BB, 7 K (6 G)
The Mets acquired Vic Black from the Pirates last season in the Marlon Byrd trade, viewing the hard-throwing right-hander as a cheap, maybe even long-term, solution in the ninth inning.
The 25-year-old’s control issues tend to result in self-destructive outings, but he also has legit late-inning stuff, with a mid-90s fastball and sharp slider. He also has a strong track record of missing bats (11.0 K/9) in the minor leagues.
Given his rough showing this spring, Black might be better off opening the season in Triple-A. However, the organization clearly wants him in the mix moving forward, especially with projected closer Bobby Parnell returning from off-season neck surgery.
Zach Walters, INF
Spring Training Stats: .379 (11-for-29), 2 2B, 3B, HR, 5 RBI, 4 BB, 8 K (15 G)
The Nationals challenged Walters with a September call-up last season after he posted an .803 OPS with 29 home runs in 134 games at Triple-A Syracuse, and the switch-hitting infielder responded by going 3-for-8 in eight games.
As a natural shortstop, Walters is capable of playing both second and third base—his power is a fit at any position—and he has done so this spring. Barring any surprises, the 24-year-old should begin the season as the Nationals’ utility infielder.
Mike Olt, 3B/1B
Spring Training Stats: .258 (8-for-31), 4 HR, 9 RBI, 2 BB, 12 K (11 G)
The Cubs acquired Mike Olt last July from the Rangers (in the Matt Garza deal) with the hope of giving him a fresh start. The 25-year-old dropped off the radar last season after reaching the major leagues late in the 2012, as vision problems led to an underwhelming .684 OPS and 132 strikeouts in 432 plate appearances in the minors in 2013.
Thankfully, Olt has looked more like his old self this spring, with four home runs and nine RBI through 11 games. Furthermore, he is set to make his first Cactus League start at third base on Thursday after dealing with shoulder soreness early in camp, per Mike Gonzales of the Chicago Tribune.
Things are finally looking up for Olt, and I like his chances of earning a spot on the Cubs Opening Day roster, possibly in a platoon with Luis Valbuena.
Billy Hamilton, OF
Spring Training Stats: .306 (11-for-36), 11 R, HR, 5 RBI, 9 SB, 6 BB, 5 K (13 G)
After an historic 2012 campaign in which he posted an .852 OPS and stole 155 bases, Hamilton posted a disappointing .256/.308/.343 batting line and 102-38 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 547 plate appearances last season. However, the 23-year-old still managed to swipe 75 stolen bases (in 90 attempts) in 123 games, and he ultimately took Major League Baseball by storm as a September call-up.
Hamilton has shown a better feel for the strike zone this spring and is making more consistent contact, which is all the Reds can really ask for from their projected Opening Day center fielder and leadoff hitter.
Oh yeah, he also hit a real, over-the-fence home run to leadoff the game on Wednesday night.
Wei-Chung Wang, LHP
Spring Training Stats: 8.1 IP, 6 H, 4 K (6 G)
Originally signed by the Pirates out of Taiwan in 2011, Wei-Chung Wang’s initial contract was voided after it was learned that he needed Tommy John surgery. The 21-year-old finally made his professional debut last season, posting a 3.23 ERA and stellar 42-4 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 47.1 innings in the Gulf Coast League.
Wang’s contract situation made him eligible for the Rule 5 draft last December, and the Brewers took advantage of the technicality by plucking him from Pittsburgh’s system. However, that also meant that he’d have to stick on the 25-man roster for the entire 2014 season.
Suffice it to say that Wang has been a pleasant surprise this spring, as he’s yet to allow an earned run through six appearances and has shown the ability to work multiple innings. It’s crazy to think the left-hander will be making the jump from the Gulf Coast League to the major leagues—the GCL is for entry-level players—but it seems as though it will happen.
Tony Sanchez, C
Spring Training Stats: .290 (9-for-31), 2 HR, 7 RBI, 2 BB, 9 K (13 G)
Selected with the No. 4 overall pick in the 2009 draft, Tony Sanchez finally reached the major leagues last season after spending most of the previous three years between Double-A and Triple-A. Serving as a backup to starter Russell Martin, the 25-year-old held his own with a .233/.288/.400 slash line and two home runs while playing in 22 games.
Though he was having a strong spring, Sanchez’s chances of making the Opening Day roster drastically improved this week with the news that projected backup Chris Stewart needs arthroscopic knee surgery, per Paul Casella of MLB.com.
St. Louis Cardinals
Kolten Wong, 2B
Spring Training Stats: .361 (13-for-36), 3 2B, 2 HR, 8 RBI, 3 BB, 8 K (13 G)
Kolten Wong had a disappointing showing in the major leagues following a late-August promotion in 2013, batting .153/.194/.169 in 62 plate appearances over 32 games.
He got off to a similarly slow start this spring, going 0-for-10 through his first five games. But since then, he’s been on an absolute tear, with a .500 batting average (13-for-26), six extra-base hits and eight RBI.
While veteran Mark Ellis will likely spell Wong at the keystone at times during the season, the 23-year-old is making it increasingly clear that he deserves to be the starter on Opening Day.
Chris Owings, SS/2B
Spring Training Stats: .273 (12-for-44), 2 2B, 3B, 2 RBI, 3 BB, 6 K (18 G)
After destroying the Triple-A Pacific Coast League last season, Chris Owings held his own with the Diamondbacks over the final month of the regular season, posting a .742 OPS, five doubles and a 10-6 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 61 plate appearances (20 games).
The 22-year-old is competing with Didi Gregorius this spring at shortstop, with the loser expected to open the season at Triple-A.
However, according to ESPN New York’s Adam Rubin, the Diamondbacks are now shopping Gregorius in exchange for starting pitching. Though the roster battle is expected to continue through the team’s upcoming series in Australia, all signs point to Owings as the preferred option moving forward.
Tommy Kahnle, RHP
Spring Training Stats: 6.1 IP, 2 H, ER, 2 BB, 5 K (7 G)
Selected from the Yankees in December’s Rule 5 draft, Tommy Kahnle, 24, owns an 11.99 K/9 in 214 career minor league innings, but he also owns a walk rate of 5.17.
The right-hander held opposing hitters to a paltry .182 batting average last season—left-handers batted just .159—and has experience as a closer. Sure, he has some serious control problems, but Kahnle has a nasty fastball-changeup combination that is capable of missing bats at any level.
Thanks to a strong showing this spring and the fact that he won’t clear waivers if cut from the roster, Kahnle seems like a safe bet to make the Rockies Opening Day roster.
San Diego Padres
Tommy Medica, 1B/OF
Spring Training Stats: .412 (21-for-51), 4 2B, 2 HR, 6 RBI, 2 SB, 2 BB, 5 K (19 G)
After a breakout 2012 campaign as a 24-year-old in the hitter-friendly (High-A) California League, Tommy Medica proved his performance wasn’t a fluke last season with a .954 OPS and 18 home runs in 320 plate appearances at Double-A San Antonio. His season culminated with a September call-up, as Medica batted .290/.380/.449 in 79 plate appearances with the Padres.
The 25-year-old has made a strong case for a spot on the Opening Day roster this spring, and the Padres are exploring ways to get his bat in the lineup, evidenced by Medica’s back-to-back starts in left field this week.
Patrick Schuster, LHP
Spring Training Stats: 7.0 IP, 9 H, 2 ER, BB, 2 K (7 G)
Following his selection by the Diamondbacks (from the Astros) in the Rule 5 draft, Patrick Schuster was traded to San Diego to complete a previous trade. Appearing in 55 games out of the High-A Visalia bullpen last season, the 23-year-old registered a 1.83 ERA with 45 strikeouts in 44.1 innings, and he held opposing hitters to a .191 batting average.
A 6’1”, 182-pound left-hander, Schuster is naturally deceptive thanks to a high-effort delivery and the ability to work from several different arm slots. His fastball typically registers in the 88-93 mph range with heavy sinking action that translates to a favorable groundball rate. The Padres went out of their way to land Schuster in December, so expect him to be in the Opening Day bullpen.
San Francisco Giants
Heath Hembree, RHP
Spring Training Stats: 4.0 IP, H, ER, 2 BB, 5 K (5 G)
Heath Hembree showcased his late-inning potential last season as a September call-up, allowing only four hits and two walks with 12 strikeouts in 7.2 innings (nine scoreless appearances).
Though he struggled in his spring debut this year, the 25-year-old right-hander hasn’t allowed a baserunner in his last three appearances. Hembree appears to be a safe bet to open the season in the Giants bullpen, and he could even emerge as a solid ninth-inning option should something happen to Sergio Romo.