Wilmer Flores, 2B, New York Mets
2014 Stats (29 games): .307/.360/.500, 5 2B, 5 HR, 25 RBI, 9 BB, 21 K
Flores went 0-for-4 with two strikeouts for the Mets on Opening Day and then continued to struggle at the plate after he was optioned to Triple-A Las Vegas. However, the 22-year-old since has made up for his slow start, with a .404 batting average, three doubles, four home runs and 17 RBI in his last 13 games.
Gregory Polanco, OF, Pittsburgh Pirates
2014 Stats (31 games): .395/.444/.613, 9 2B, 3 3B, 4 HR, 28 RBI, 7 SB, 10 BB, 24 K
It’s only a matter of time until the Pirates (14-20) call up Polanco, as he clearly has little left to prove in the minor leagues. The organization has always been deliberately slow in promoting its top prospects; however, with an offense that ranks in the middle of the pack among all NL teams in most categories, it’s become clear that the 22-year-old will serve as an upgrade upon arrival.
Polanco currently leads all International League hitters (with at least 100 plate appearances) in all triple-slash line categories, as well as wOBA (.372), runs scored (23) and RBI (27).
Noah Syndergaard, RHP, New York Mets
2014 Stats (7 starts): 4-2, 37.2 IP, 3.58 ERA, .278 BAA, 15 BB, 36 K
After a handful of shaky outings to begin his season, Syndergaard, 21, has looked much better in his past two turns in the rotation, with a 0.71 ERA and 15/5 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 12.2 innings. He also struck out a season-high eight batters in his start on Monday against Tacoma.
Joc Pederson, OF, Los Angeles Dodgers
2014 Stats (31 games): .371/.479/.619, 25 R, 8 2B, 7 HR, 16 RBI, 10 SB, 24 BB, 35 K
Pederson continues to fire on all cylinders this season, as he currently ranks third among all Triple-A hitters in home runs, on-base percentage, OPS, stolen bases and wOBA (.477). The 21-year-old serves a top-notch safety net at Triple-A given the Dodgers’ overcrowded and mostly veteran outfield, and he should be the first player summoned from the minors when the team needs a replacement.
However, there’s always a chance that the organization dangles him as trade bait this season to improve its on-field product in the major leagues.
Chris Taylor, SS/2B, Seattle Mariners
2014 Stats (28 games): .351/.398/.561, 11 2B, 2 3B, 3 HR, 16 RBI, 5 SB, 10 BB, 21 K
Taylor was the most underrated middle-infield prospect in the 2012 draft, and he put himself on the major league radar last season by batting .314/.409/.455 with 47 extra-base hits and 38 stolen bases in 134 games between High-A High Desert and Double-A Jackson.
He’s absolutely raked at Triple-A Tacoma—as most of Seattle’s prospects tend to do in the Pacific Coast League—to open the season, hitting safely in 22 of 28 contests, including 12 multihit performances.
Javier Baez, SS, Chicago Cubs
2014 Stats (22 games): .169/.250/.313, 2B, 3B, 3 HR, 10 RBI, 3 SB, 7 BB, 34 K
Baez has been a slow starter for most of his professional career, whether to open a season or following a promotion to a more advanced level. So it isn’t entirely surprising that the 21-year-old slugger has scuffled through the season’s first month. According to FanGraphs, Baez currently ranks dead last among all qualified Triple-A hitters in both wOBA (.235) and wRC+ (32).
In his 14 games since returning from a minor hamstring injury, Baez is batting just .175 with one home run and a 23/5 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 64 plate appearances. Last week, he batted .105 with 10 strikeouts in 24 plate appearances.
Tyler Matzek, LHP, Colorado Rockies
2014 Stats (6 starts): 1-2, 31.2 IP, 4.83 ERA, .238 BAA, 15 BB, 33 K
It took four turbulent years in the minor leagues, but it seemed as though Matzek—the No. 11 overall pick in the 2009 draft—might have finally figured things out after his first four starts (2.18 ERA, 24 K in 20.2 IP) at Triple-A Colorado Springs. However, the 23-year-old southpaw’s performance has quickly deteriorated in his last two outings, with a 9.81 ERA and 19 hits allowed in 11 innings.
Matt Davidson, 3B, Chicago White Sox
2014 Stats (27 games): .165/.239/.320, 6 2B, 3 HR, 9 RBI, 9 BB, 43 K
Davidson had a solid showing in the major leagues last summer with the Diamondbacks, posting a .768 OPS with six doubles, three home runs and a 24-to-10 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 31 games. However, the 23-year-old has struggled mightily at Triple-A Charlotte this season and is batting just .091 (3-for-33) with 14 strikeouts in his last 10 games. However, two of those three hits did leave the yard.
Zach Lee, RHP, Los Angeles Dodgers
2014 Stats (6 starts): 2-3, 31.1 IP, 4.02 ERA, .289 BAA, 9 BB, 21 K
Lee, 22, pitched well in his first four starts this season, allowing a combined five earned runs in 22.2 innings. However, the right-hander since has been shelled in back-to-back outings, yielding a combined nine earned runs on 20 hits in only 8.2 frames.
Lee hasn't missed many bats this season, with 21 strikeouts and career-worst 6.03 K/9 through 31.1 innings, but he's managed to keep the ball in the park (0.29 HR/9) in the hitter-friendly Pacific Coast League.
Maikel Franco, 3B, Philadelphia Phillies
2014 Stats (30 games): .205/.268/.316, 7 2B, 2 HR, 10 RBI, 9 BB, 24 K
Franco’s production last season ranked among the best in the minor leagues, as the then-20-year-old batted .320/.356/.569 with 36 doubles, 31 home runs and 103 RBI in 134 games between High-A Clearwater and Double-A Reading. Though he received an extended look at the hot corner during spring training, Franco, 21, ultimately was assigned to Triple-A after batting .184 in 16 games.
Unfortunately, his struggles have carried over into the regular season, as Franco has mustered only a .584 OPS through 30 games. He showed signs of busting out of his early-season funk last weekend, when he was 6-for-14 with three doubles and a home run over a three-game stretch. Since then, however, Franco is just 3-for-16 with no extra-base hits or RBI.