Stock Up, Stock Down on MLB's Top 10 Prospects After Week 1
It’s been an eventful week for some of baseball’s top prospects. For others, not so much.
Xander Bogaerts has been the star everyone expected through the first week of the season, batting .360 through his first seven games, and the 21-year-old shortstop looks like a safe bet to run away with the American League Rookie of the Year Award.
Meanwhile, fellow shortstops Carlos Correa and Francisco Lindor are off to similar hot starts in the minor leagues, with Correa batting .471 with eight RBI at High-A Lancaster, and Lindor batting .353 back at Double-A Akron.
Unfortunately, a pair of top-10 prospects—as determined by Prospect Pipeline's End-of-Season Top 100 Prospects—are dealing with injuries, as Byron Buxton (wrist sprain) and Addison Russell (hamstring strain) are currently on the seven-day disabled list for their respective Double-A teams.
Here’s a look at how the rest of baseball’s top-ranked prospects fared during the first week of the minor league season.
10. Noah Syndergaard, RHP, New York Mets
2014 Stats (Triple-A): 6 IP, 6 H, 2 ER, BB, 5 K (1 GS)
Noah Syndergaard’s overall line this spring wasn’t particularly great (5.19 ERA in 8.2 innings), but the right-hander showed the ability to consistently miss bats and limit hard contact with 10 strikeouts and a .167 opponents’ batting average, respectively.
Making both his season and Triple-A debut on Friday, the 21-year-old right-hander held Lehigh Valley to two runs on six hits in six innings, while posting a 5-to-1 strikeout-to-walk ratio.
The Mets obviously have no reason to rush Syndergaard to the major leagues this year—especially given what happened to Matt Harvey in 2013—but it’s going to be hard for the organization to hold him in the hitter-friendly Pacific Coast League for more than a half-season.
9. Taijuan Walker, RHP, Seattle Mariners
2014 Stats (High-A): 4.1 IP, 4 H, ER, BB, 7 K (1 GS)
Taijuan Walker was expected to open the season in the Mariners’ starting rotation, but after dealing with shoulder inflammation for most of the spring and failing to appear in a major league game, the right-hander was ultimately sent to the minor leagues to build arm strength and get back on track.
The 21-year-old made his season debut on Friday, albeit for High-A High Desert in the hitter-friendly California League and pitched well, considering the long layoff, allowing one earned run on four hits and a walk in 4.1 innings while notching seven strikeouts.
Walker will likely require a handful or so of starts in the minors before the Mariners feel comfortable inserting him in the rotation, but it doesn’t seem as though his early-season shoulder injury is a reason to worry moving forward.
Stock: Holding Steady
8. Addison Russell, SS, Oakland Athletics
2014 Stats (Double-A): .714 (5-for-7), 2B, HR, 2 RBI, SB, K (2 G)
Russell was having an impressive spring, batting .280 with three extra-base hits in 12 games, before a hamstring strain on March 10 prematurely ended his stay in major league camp.
However, the 20-year-old shortstop recovered in time for the start of the Double-A season, and he quickly made up for the lost time by going a combined 5-for-7 with a double and home run in his first two games. Unfortunately, Russell’s hamstring injury flared up once again during that second game, and on Monday, he was officially placed on the seven-day disabled list, per Melissa Lockard of OaklandClubhouse.com.
7. Archie Bradley, RHP, Arizona Diamondbacks
2014 Stats (Triple-A): 5 IP, 4 H, 2 BB, 3 K (1 GS)
Archie Bradley was one of several pitchers competing for a spot in Arizona’s Opening Day rotation, but a few shaky starts toward the end of spring training ultimately led to his assignment to Triple-A Reno to open the season.
Thankfully, Bradley looked like his usual self on Sunday in his Triple-A debut, as the 21-year-old right-hander picked up the win, after allowing four hits in five scoreless frames. Bradley struck out only three batters in the outing, but he exhibited more consistent command with only two walks during that span.
6. Francisco Lindor, SS, Cleveland Indians
2014 Stats (Double-A): .353 (6-for-17), HR, 3 RBI, SB, 4 K (4 G)
Lindor had an outstanding showing this year during spring training, as the 20-year-old batted .316/.350/.579, with three extra-base hits and five RBI while appearing in 11 games.
The switch-hitting shortstop hasn’t skipped a beat with the start of the Double-A season, as he’s now hit safely in all four games and enters Tuesday batting .353. After an impressive showing at the level during the second half of the 2013 season, Lindor is on the fast track to the major leagues and may not require much time this year in the minors.
5. Javier Baez, SS, Chicago Cubs
2014 Stats (Triple-A): .091 (1-for-11), HR, 2 BB, 6 K (5 G)
Javier Baez has been a slow starter for most of his professional career, whether it be to open a season or following a midseason promotion to a more advanced level; it just takes him some time to find his rhythm and timing at the plate.
So, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that the 21-year-old shortstop began his highly anticipated campaign by striking out six times in nine at-bats. However, Baez’s game on Sunday was definitely an encouraging sign, as he launched his first Triple-A home run as part of a 1-for-2 performance. Expect the top-ranked slugger to heat up in a hurry moving forward.
Stock: Holding Steady
4. Oscar Taveras, OF, St. Louis Cardinals
2014 Stats (Triple-A): .211 (4-for-19), 2B, HR, 4 RBI, BB, 5 K (5 G)
Oscar Taveras was cut from spring training due a hamstring injury, but the 21-year-old outfielder has since recovered and was able to begin the minor league season on time at Triple-A Memphis.
Through he’s only collected four hits in 19 at-bats to open the year, Taveras has shown more power, with a double and a home run, in the early going, and he’s driven in at least one run in all but one game so far. It’s important to remain patient with Taveras, as this past week was the most consistent at-bats he’d seen since last May, prior to the season-ending ankle injury.
3. Carlos Correa, SS, Houston Astros
2014 Stats (High-A Lancaster): .471 (8-for-17), 2B, HR, 8 RBI, 3 BB (5 G)
Correa’s season-opening series against High-A Lake Elsinore—also his High-A debut—couldn’t have gone better, as the 19-year-old shortstop collected eight hits and eight RBI over four games, highlighted by a trio of multi-hit performances.
In his season opener, Correa was 3-for-4 with four RBI, and three days later, he went 3-for-4 once again, this time adding a home run, three runs scored and a trio of RBI. Assuming Buxton graduates to the major leagues at some point this season, it’s hard to envision a scenario where Correa is not baseball’s top-ranked prospect headed into 2014.
2. Xander Bogaerts, SS, Boston Red Sox
2014 Stats (MLB): .360 (9-for-25), 5 R, 2 2B, 4 BB, 5 K (7 G)
Bogaerts struggled for most of spring training and was batting just .189 through his first 15 games. After that, however, the 21-year-old caught fire at the plate, going 8-for-20 (.400) with three doubles, one home run and five RBI in the final week leading up to the regular season.
Well, Bogaerts’ tear at the end of spring training carried over into the regular season, as the shortstop enters Tuesday batting .360 through seven games and having hit safely in all but one contest.
1. Byron Buxton, OF, Minnesota Twins
2014 Stats: N/A
Buxton suffered a left wrist sprain on March 19 while diving for a ball in minor league camp and hasn’t played since. The injury forced Buxton to begin the season on the seven-day disabled list, and he’s not expected to be cleared to resume baseball activities until midweek at the earliest, according to a report by Phil Miller of the Star Tribune.
Stock: Holding Steady