Mike Rosenbaum's Updated Top 50 MLB Prospects Post-2014 MLB Draft
With the 2014 MLB first-year player draft now in the books, it's time to see how baseball's new crop of talent compares to its current top prospects.
However, the arrival of new faces in this top-50 update means we have to say goodbye to those players who've lost prospect status (either by accruing 130 at-bats or 50 innings in the major leagues) or are currently part of a team's 25-man, active roster. Please note that all rankings for 2014 draftees are based on the assumption they will sign with their respective teams and begin their professional careers.
With that being said, here is Prospect Pipeline's updated ranking of baseball's top 50 prospects in the wake of the 2014 draft.
How They're Ranked
- Body type/athleticism
- Hitting mechanics; bat speed
- Injury history
- Statistical trends
- Age vs. level: how well a player fared at a certain level relative to his age and that of the competition
- Tools: number of projectable tools a player possesses in relation to his position, age and competition; present vs. future tool grades.
- Hit tool: In the evolution of the prospect landscape, the hit tool is the most important but also the hardest to project
- League and park factors
- On-base skills: approach; strike-zone management; pitch recognition
- Place on organization's depth chart
- Positional scarcity; up-the-middle potential
- Body type/athleticism/strength
- Mechanics: delivery; arm speed; release point
- Age vs. highest level of experience
- Injury history (durability)
- Statistical trends
- Arsenal quality and depth
- Pitch projections: present vs. future grades
- Hittability: How tough is he to barrel? Does he keep the ball on the ground/in the park?
- Control/command: Is he usually around the zone? Does he effectively command his stuff? How much development/refinement is needed?
- Pitchability: feel (and confidence) for using and sequencing entire arsenal
- Approach: Does he fearlessly attack and challenge opposing hitters?
- Projection: Does he project as a starter? If so, what type? Or is he likely to be relegated to the bullpen? If so, why?
- Firsthand scouting
- Video analysis
- Industry contacts
50. Josh Bell, OF, Pittsburgh Pirates
Level: High-A Bradenton
Josh Bell opened eyes last year during his first full minor league season—he appeared in only 15 games in 2012 before requiring season-ending knee surgery—as the switch-hitter posted an .806 OPS with 52 extra-base hits in 119 games for Low-A West Virginia.
Moved up to High-A Bradenton for his 2014 campaign, Bell, 21, has continued to make offensive strides in the pitcher-friendly Florida State League, batting .310/.358/.472 with 22 extra-base hits (six home runs) and an improved 35-17 strikeout-to-walk ratio through 58 games.
While he’s shown more power from the left side of the plate (.866 OPS, 16 XBH), Bell is also holding his own as a righty with a .304 batting average.
I have some doubt as to whether his thicker build and so-so defense profiles long term at either corner outfield position—he’s also blocked in the major leagues at both spots by Starling Marte and Gregory Polanco—but his bat should at least support consideration at first base when the time comes.
49. Sean Newcomb, LHP, Los Angeles Angels
Selected by the Los Angeles Angels with the No. 15 overall pick in this year’s draft, Sean Newcomb turned in a remarkable junior season for Hartford, going 8-2 with a stellar 1.25 ERA and 106 strikeouts and just 38 walks in 93.1 innings (14 starts).
The soon-to-be 21-year-old southpaw improved on all fronts compared to his breakout sophomore campaign, as he lowered his hits per nine innings from 6.63 to 4.92, while also reducing his walk rate from 4.63 BB/9 to 3.66.
If he signs—which he absolutely should—Newcomb will likely begin his professional career at one of the Angels’ full-season affiliates, likely Low-A Cedar Rapids.
48. Daniel Norris, LHP, Toronto Blue Jays
Level: High-A Dunedin
Daniel Norris quietly has emerged as one the game’s better left-handed pitching prospects this year after making a mechanical adjustment late last season.
So exactly how good has the 21-year-old been? Well, between his final six starts last season and 12 this year, Norris owns a 1.10 ERA and 103-25 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 90.1 innings (18 starts). He’s also held opposing hitters to a .199 batting average during that span.
The southpaw projects as a No. 2 or No. 3 starter with four average-or-better offerings at maturity, including a plus fastball and changeup.
47. Clint Frazier, OF, Cleveland Indians
Level: Low-A Lake County
Clint Frazier turned in a solid professional debut last summer in the Arizona League, as the 2013 No. 5 overall pick batted .297/.362/.506 with 21 extra-base hits in 44 games.
While he’s still loaded with upside, the 19-year-old’s full-season debut this year at Low-A Lake County hasn’t gone as smoothly, as his .241 batting average and .335 slugging percentage has in turn highlighted his swing-and-miss tendencies (29 percent strikeout rate).
46. Maikel Franco, 3B, Philadelphia Phillies
Level: Triple-A Lehigh Valley
Coming off a monster 2013 breakout campaign in which he batted .320/.356/.569 with 36 doubles, 31 home runs and 103 RBI between High- and Double-A, Maikel Franco entered the 2014 season seemingly on the cusp of the major leagues.
However, the 21-year-old’s inconsistent showing during spring training carried over into his time at Triple-A Lehigh Valley, where he’s struggled to the tune of a .216/.281/.345 batting line with five home runs through 59 games.
45. Kyle Freeland, LHP, Colorado Rockies
Selected by the Colorado Rockies with the No. 8 overall pick in this year’s draft, Kyle Freeland ranked as one of the top pitchers in college baseball this spring, as the Evansville left-hander went 10-2 with a 1.90 ERA and ridiculous 128-12 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 99.2 innings (1.08 BB/9; 11.56 K/9).
And for those not buying his gaudy stats, given the quality of hitters in the Missouri Valley Conference, just keep this in mind: Freeland, who features excellent control of a his plus fastball and slider, led the prestigious Cape Cod League last summer with 48 strikeouts and a 12-0 strikeout-to-walk ratio.
44. Kohl Stewart, RHP, Minnesota Twins
Level: Low-A Cedar Rapids
The Minnesota Twins bumped Kohl Stewart, the No. 4 overall pick in the 2013 draft, up to Low-A Cedar Rapids for his first full professional season, and so far the 19-year-old right-hander has rewarded the organization for its confidence.
Through his first 10 starts, Stewart has registered a 2.76 ERA in 49 innings while striking out 36 batters against 15 walks. More importantly, the promising right-hander, who works on a consistent downhill plane with his low-90s fastball, has held opposing hitters to a .209 average and allowed only one home run.
43. Jeff Hoffman, RHP, Toronto Blue Jays
Selected by the Blue Jays with the No. 9 overall pick in this year’s draft, Jeff Hoffman won’t throw a pitch competitively until this time next year, at the earliest, after undergoing Tommy John surgery in May. However, the front-of-the-rotation potential he showed last summer in the Cape Cod League and then this spring at East Carolina gives him one of the higher ceilings among all pitching prospects.
42. Jorge Alfaro, C, Texas Rangers
Level: High-A Myrtle Beach
Jorge Alfaro continues to drop jaws with his potential on both sides of the ball, but, at the same time, both areas of his game remain raw and inconsistent.
The 20-year-old’s offensive campaign is shaping up a lot like last year’s, with a .260/.315/.422 batting average and 21 extra-base hits (six home runs) through 56 games, but he’s also struck out 60 times (24.9 percent) against 14 walks (5.8 percent). And while he’s thrown out base stealers at a 34 percent clip in 42 games behind the dish, he’s also committed seven errors to go along with 15 passed balls.
41. Tyler Kolek, RHP, Miami Marlins
Tyler Kolek, the No. 2 overall pick in the 2014 draft, owned the best velocity in this year’s class, with a fastball that sits in the upper-90s and scrapes triple digits.
Yet, due to his limited pitching background being from a rural Texas town, the 6’5” right-hander’s secondary offerings are raw and inconsistent, as is his overall control. That being said, Kolek has the potential to be a durable, front-of-the-rotation monster with time and experience.
40. Blake Swihart, C, Boston Red Sox
Level: Double-A Portland
Arguably the most underrated catcher in the minor leagues (but not for long), Blake Swihart is quietly putting together an outstanding season at Double-A Portland on both sides of the ball.
At the dish, the 22-year-old switch-hitter is batting .287/.319/.467 with 20 extra-base hits (six home runs) and 31 RBI through 49 games, while also making contact at an 82.4 percent clip. Defensively, Swihart has thrown out 50 percent (17-for-34) of all base stealers this season and is yet to allow a passed ball in 44 games behind the plate.
39. Jorge Soler, OF, Chicago Cubs
Level: Double-A Tennessee
Two separate stints on the disabled list for a hamstring injury—Jorge Soler's been sidelined again after leaving a game on May 15—have impeded his development at Double-A Tennessee this season. However, in the seven games he played while healthy, the 22-year-old batted .333/.407/.625 with seven of his eight hits going for doubles.
38. Joey Gallo, 3B, Texas Rangers
Level: High-A Myrtle Beach
Joey Gallo is enjoying an absolutely monstrous season at High-A Myrtle Beach, as an adjustment to his swing—he’s keeping his hands closer to his body from load to point of contact—has led to his across-the-board-improvement at the plate.
The 20-year-old is batting .323/.463/.735 with nine doubles and a minor league-leading 21 home runs through 58 games, and more importantly, he’s dramatically improved his strikeout (26.0 percent) and walk (20.7 percent) rates in the process.
37. Nick Gordon, SS, Minnesota Twins
The son of former MLB closer Tom “Flash” Gordon and brother of the Los Angeles Dodgers’ Dee Gordon, Nick was recently selected by the Twins with the No. 5 overall pick in the draft. The 18-year-old was viewed as the best true shortstop in this year’s class, as he’s a plus runner and defender with the potential for an above-average hit tool at maturity.
This spring, Gordon batted .494/.576/.843 with 41 hits, 28 runs scored, 10 doubles, two triples, five home runs, 27 RBI and 13 stolen bases in 27 games for Olympia (Florida) High School.
36. Brandon Nimmo, OF, New York Mets
Level: High-A St. Lucie
Brandon Nimmo, the No. 13 pick in the 2011 draft, has seen his prospect stock skyrocket this season, thanks to a breakout performance at High-A St. Lucie. Through his first 58 games, Nimmo, 21, is batting .327/.448/.458, with 16 extra-base hits, 52 runs scored and an impressive 56-41 strikeout-to-walk ratio, while also batting .353 against left-handers.
35. Tyler Glasnow, RHP, Pittsburgh Pirates
Level: High-A Bradenton
Tyler Glasnow's 2014 season has featured plenty of strikeouts (41 in 37.2 innings) and walks (26), as he's posted a 2.15 ERA in eight starts, thanks largely to a .167 opponents’ batting average.
The 20-year-old right-hander has an upper-90s fastball that can touch triple digits to go with a potential above-average curveball and changeup, but his command will need to improve before the Pittsburgh Pirates move him up to Double-A.
34. Alex Meyer, RHP, Minnesota Twins
Level: Triple-A Rochester
Though his performance at Triple-A Rochester this season has been inconsistent at times, Alex Meyer, 24, has little left to prove in the minor leagues. The right-hander’s command needs to improve if he’s going to work deep into games, but his .223 opponents’ batting average and 10.8 K/9 this season further highlight that his stuff will play against big league hitters.
33. Andrew Heaney, LHP, Miami Marlins
Level: Triple-A New Orleans
Speaking of guys with little left to prove in the minor leagues, Andrew Heaney is already on his second level this season after a late-May promotion to Triple-A New Orleans in the wake of Jose Fernandez’s injury. Since arriving at the more advanced level, the 23-year-old left-hander has posted a 3-0 record (including a shutout) to go along with a 2.74 ERA and 27-2 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 23 innings.
32. Aaron Sanchez, RHP, Toronto Blue Jays
Level: Double-A New Hampshire
Aaron Sanchez hasn't taken the step forward this season that many expected following his impressive showing in last year's Arizona Fall League and then this spring in major league camp. In his first taste of Double-A, the 21-year-old right-hander has seen his strikeout (7.8 K/9) and walk (5.5 BB/9) rates trend in opposite directions, though he's still managed to hold opposing hitters to a .222 average over 66 innings.
31. Jameson Taillon, RHP, Pittsburgh Pirates
Jameson Taillon underwent successful Tommy John surgery in early April, but it's costing him a crucial year of development and will likely delay his arrival in the major leagues until mid-2015 at the earliest.
30. David Dahl, OF, Colorado Rockies
Level: Low-A Asheville
David Dahl, the No. 10 overall pick in the 2012 draft, is quickly making up for his lost 2013 season with a strong performance this season at Low-A Asheville.
Though he plays his home games in a notoriously hitter-friendly park, the 20-year-old outfielder is still turning in solid production on the road and batting .278/.323/.515 with 31 extra-base hits (10 home runs) and 12 stolen bases through 56 games.
Dahl's below-average pitch recognition and selection is a product of his time off and overall inexperience, so don't read too much into his 42-15 strikeout-to-walk ratio this season.
29. Mark Appel, RHP, Houston Astros
Level: Temporary Inactive List
Mark Appel was skipped in the High-A Lancaster rotation after his shaky start on April 14, when he allowed three runs on five hits in only three innings. However, the 2013 No. 1 overall pick didn’t fare any better his next time out (April 23), as he was hammered for three runs on six hits in 2.1 uninspiring frames.
Following the start, Appel, 22, was removed from the Lancaster rotation and assigned to extended spring training, with Astros general manager Jeff Luhnow taking the blame for assuming the right-hander would fit the organization's tandem approach to starts.
Appel returned to Lancaster after a month in extended spring training, and things only worsened, as he allowed 10 earned runs on 10 hits (three home runs) and lasted only 1.1 innings. Yes, it's just one (really) bad outing, but I agree with Baseball America's J.J. Cooper that there's sufficient reason for concern.
28. Dylan Bundy, RHP, Baltimore Orioles
Level: Extended Spring Training
Dylan Bundy, 21, continues to work his way back from Tommy John surgery last spring, and the news continues to get better. According to Roch Kubatko of MASN (via Twitter), Bundy threw four perfect innings last Tuesday in an extended spring training game, striking out six batters while throwing 56 pitches.
If all goes as planned in his recovery, Bundy could be ready to rejoin the Baltimore Orioles (if there’s a need, that is) sometime around the All-Star break.
27. Henry Owens, LHP, Boston Red Sox
Level: Double-A Portland
Despite his impressive 2.24 ERA, Henry Owens has struggled with his command this season at Double-A Portland, with 32 walks in 72.1 innings. However, the 21-year-old southpaw has been difficult to barrel—as is usually the case when his secondary pitches are working—as he's held opposing hitters to a .170 average while registering 74 strikeouts during that span.
26. Braden Shipley, RHP, Arizona Diamondbacks
Level: High-A Visalia
Braden Shipley, the No. 15 overall pick in the 2013 draft, has already received a promotion to High-A Visalia after posting a 3.74 ERA with 41 strikeouts and 11 walks in 45.2 innings (eight starts) for Low-A South Bend to begin the season. Since arriving at the new level, the 22-year-old right-hander has gone at least six innings with seven strikeouts in both starts.
25. Hunter Harvey, RHP, Baltimore Orioles
Level: Low-A Delmarva
Few pitchers in the low minors have been as impressive as Hunter Harvey this season, as the 19-year-old has dominated hitters in the South Atlantic League behind advanced command of his above-average heater and plus curveball.
Through his first 11 starts, the highly projectable right-hander has posted a 2.31 ERA and 67-22 strikeout-to-walk ratio while holding opposing hitters to a .191 batting average over 58.1 frames.
24. Mookie Betts, 2B/CF, Boston Red Sox
Level: Triple-A Pawtucket
Mookie Betts is up there with Gregory Polanco and Kris Bryant as one of the top performers through the first two months of the season, as the 21-year-old has already received a promotion from Double- to Triple-A and is suddenly knocking on the door of the major leagues.
Between both levels, Betts is batting .349/.440/.538 with 59 runs scored, 83 hits, 28 extra-base hits (seven home runs), 22 stolen bases and more walks (40) than strikeouts (23) through 60 games.
23. Kyle Zimmer, RHP, Kansas City Royals
Level: Double-A Northwest Arkansas (Disabled List)
According to Andy McCullough of The Kansas City Star (via Twitter), Kyle Zimmer, who has yet to make his 2014 debut, suffered a lat strain in late May while pitching in extended spring training, and he'll be shut down for the next six to eight weeks.
22. Albert Almora, OF, Chicago Cubs
Level: High-A Daytona
Albert Almora’s aggressive approach—six walks in 238 plate appearances (2.5 percent walk rate)—has caught up to him in the pitcher-friendly Florida State League, though he’s still batting a respectable .250 (especially for a 20-year-old) with 15 extra-base hits on the season. However, his low strikeout rate (12.6 percent) and career-low .275 BABIP suggests his average will improve.
21. Joc Pederson, OF, Los Angeles Dodgers
Level: Triple-A Albuquerque
Joc Pederson continues to fire on all cylinders this season, as he currently ranks first in the Pacific Coast League in on-base percentage (.440) and OPS (1.063), third in home runs (16) and slugging (.623), OPS (1.116) and fifth in stolen bases (13).
The 22-year-old should be the first player called upon from the minors once the Dodgers can offer him at least several starts per week, though there’s always a chance the organization uses him as trade bait this summer in order to improve its on-field product at the major league level.
20. J.P. Crawford, SS, Philadelphia Phillies
Level: Low-A Lakewood
J.P. Crawford turned in an impressive professional debut last summer after the Philadelphia Phillies selected him with the No. 16 overall pick in the draft; he batted .345/.443/.465 with 12 extra-base hits and 12 stolen bases in 39 Gulf Coast League games and finished his inaugural campaign with 14 games at Low-A Lakewood.
After a slow start this year back at Lakewood, the 19-year-old has since emerged as one of the better shortstop prospects in the game, batting .309/.405/.431 with 19 extra-base hits (three home runs), 10 stolen bases and a 34-31 strikeout-to-walk ratio through 54 games.
19. Julio Urias, LHP, Los Angeles Dodgers
Level: High-A Rancho Cucamonga
Julio Urias, who won't turn 18 until August, gave everyone a scare when he came down with shoulder soreness in late April and then failed to escape the first inning in his first start back, but the left-hander has since proved he's healthy by posting a 2.40 ERA and 30-6 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 30 innings spanning eight starts.
18. Carlos Rodon, LHP, Chicago White Sox
Long considered the likely No. 1 pick in the 2014 draft, Carlos Rodon wasn't as consistent or dominant this spring as he was in previous years, posting career worsts with a 1.17 WHIP and 7.66 H/9, but the 21-year-old left-hander still finished the season with an excellent 2.01 ERA and dropped his BB/9 below 3.00 to go along with a 10.67 K/9. He went on to be selected by the Chicago White Sox with the No. 3 overall pick.
The greatest concern with Rodon moving forward is his durability, as he twice threw more than 130 pitches in a game toward the end of the season and eclipsed 100 pitches in a majority of his starts. However, if he can stay healthy, the southpaw should develop into a No. 2 starter for the South Siders.
17. Robert Stephenson, RHP, Cincinnati Reds
Level: Double-A Pensacola
Robert Stephenson, 21, has posted a solid 3.49 ERA with 70 strikeouts in 67 innings this season at Double-A Pensacola; however, his inconsistent command has led to an elevated 4.2 BB/9, while his tendency to pitch up in the zone with his mid- to upper-90s fastball has led to seven home runs this season after he allowed 10 in 114.1 frames in 2013.
16. Raul Mondesi, SS, Kansas City Royals
Level: High-A Wilmington
Raul Mondesi got off to a great start at High-A Wilmington, batting .304 in 20 April games, but since then he's struggled to make adjustments at the plate and is batting just .206 with a 31-3 strikeout-to-walk ratio over his last 25 contests.
15. Brady Aiken, LHP, Houston Astros
Prior to his selection by the Houston Astros with the No. 1 overall pick, Brady Aiken was already viewed as a probable first-rounder entering his senior season, but the left-hander began to shoot up the draft boards early in the spring, thanks to improved fastball velocity and command of his secondary offerings.
The 17-year-old finished the high school season with a 1.06 ERA and 111-15 strikeout-to-walk ratio in just 59.2 innings.
14. Austin Hedges, C, San Diego Padres
Level: Double-A San Antonio
Austin Hedges struggled to get things started at the plate this season—his first full campaign at the Double-A level—with a .581 OPS and 13-0 strikeout-to-walk ratio through 18 games. Since then, however, the 21-year-old backstop has picked up the pace offensively, with a .270/328/.440 batting line, 14 extra-base hits and 16 RBI in his last 34 contests.
More importantly, Hedges has posted a 40 percent caught-stealing rate this season with only two passed balls in 47 games behind the plate.
13. Corey Seager, SS, Los Angeles Dodgers
Level: High-A Rancho Cucamonga
Corey Seager struggled at High-A Rancho Cucamonga during the final month of the 2013 regular season, as he batted just .160 with 31 strikeouts in 27 games following a promotion from Low-A Great Lakes.
This year, in his second tour of the level, the 20-year-old shortstop has been one of the top hitters in the California League, with a .348/.394/.626 batting line, 24 doubles, 12 home runs and 49 RBI in 55 games.
12. Lucas Giolito, RHP, Washington Nationals
Level: Low-A Hagerstown
As one of the sport's top pitching prospects, Lucas Giolito is doing exactly what he should be doing against South Atlantic League batters. Though his workload has been limited by the organization, it hasn't prevented the right-hander from dominating to the tune of a 2.29 ERA and 41-14 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 35.1 innings.
The 19-year-old is simply too good to remain at the Low-A level much longer, though it will be interesting to see how the Nationals handle his development moving forward in his first full season back from Tommy John surgery.
11. Miguel Sano, 3B, Minnesota Twins
Level: Double-A New Britain (Disabled List)
Miguel Sano underwent Tommy John surgery early in the spring and isn't expected to return before the end of the regular season. Though it's a lost year of development for the 21-year-old, the injury shouldn't affect his power and therefore hasn't negatively impacted his ranking.
10. Noah Syndergaard, RHP, New York Mets
Level: Triple-A Las Vegas
Noah Syndergaard's performance at Triple-A Las Vegas this season has been frustrating, as he's continued to miss bats at a favorable rate (9.4 K/9) and limit free passes (3.15 BB/9) but he's also been hit hard consistently (10.3 H/9, .290 BAA) in the Pacific Coast League. And while he's overcome the minor elbow injury that cropped up last month, the fact that it happened in the first place is concerning.
9. Jonathan Gray, RHP, Colorado Rockies
Level: Double-A Tulsa
Folks were starting to become worried after Jonathan Gray’s dismal second start to the season for Double-A Tulsa, when the right-hander surrendered six earned runs on seven hits and failed to complete the first inning. However, the 22-year-old flame-thrower has since washed away any previous concerns over his last nine starts by posting a 3.25 ERA with 38 strikeouts in 52.1 innings.
8. Archie Bradley, RHP, Arizona Diamondbacks
Level: Triple-A Reno (Disabled List)
After a shaky start to his season at Triple-A Reno, Archie Bradley has been on the seven-day disabled list since April 26 with a mild flexor strain in his right elbow. However, the organization is hopeful that their prized right-hander will be ready to go by the last week in June, via The Arizona Republic.
7. Kris Bryant, 3B, Chicago Cubs
Level: Double-A Tennessee
Kris Bryant continues to pass every test the organization throws his way, and he’s done nothing but surpass all expectations since the Chicago Cubs selected him second overall in last year’s draft.
The 22-year-old slugger has put up monster numbers this season in his first taste of the Double-A level, as he currently leads the Southern League in batting average (.356), on-base percentage (.461), slugging (.716), home runs (21), OPS (1.177), total bases (161), runs scored (55), hits (80) and RBI (54).
As a power hitter who works deep counts, Bryant will always have some swing-and-miss to his game. However, his on-base skills and underrated feel for hitting makes him more than a one-dimensional player. He's already made a strong case for a call-up with the Cubs later this season, but my guess is that they will have him finish the year at Triple-A Iowa.
6. Addison Russell, SS, Oakland Athletics
Level: High-A Stockton
Addision Russell, 20, recovered from a right hamstring injury suffered during spring training in time for the start of the Double-A season, and he made an immediate impact by going 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, this time resulting in a Grade 3 strain and a trip to the disabled list, according to Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports.
But there's good news: Russell returned to action on Sunday for High-A Stockton and went 2-for-3 with an RBI, walk and a stolen base, which is a good sign that his hamstring feels good. If he can quickly make up for the lost time, which is entirely possible given his natural ability and capacity to make adjustments, Russell could still reach the major leagues before season's end.
5. Francisco Lindor, SS, Cleveland Indians
Level: Double-A Akron
After getting his first taste of Double-A late last season, Francisco Lindor has excelled on both sides of the ball this season, despite being one of the youngest everyday players in the Eastern League. The 20-year-old defensive wizard is batting .271/.363/.380 with 13 extra-base hits, 17 stolen bases and a 38-32 strikeout-to-walk ratio through 57 games, and he should make his big league debut later this season.
4. Javier Baez, SS, Chicago Cubs
Level: Triple-A Iowa
Javier Baez got off to a horrendous start this season at Triple-A Iowa, batting .142 with three home runs and 45 strikeouts through his first 28 games.
However, the 21-year-old’s track record of slow starts in previous years, whether it was to begin a season or following a promotion, suggested he inevitably would right the ship. So it’s not surprising Baez is batting .342/.375/.671 with nine doubles and five home runs in his last 21 games.
3. Gregory Polanco, OF, Pittsburgh Pirates
Level: Triple-A Indianapolis
Gregory Polanco has nothing left to prove in Triple-A—as if that wasn’t obvious based on his .347/.405/.540 batting line, 29 extra-base hits (seven home runs), 49 RBI and 15 stolen bases through 62 games. I’m not sure what the Pirates are waiting for—he already rejected their pre-MLB contract offer in early May—but they’re missing opportunities to win by keeping him in the minor leagues.
2. Carlos Correa, SS, Houston Astros
Level: High-A Lancaster
One of the younger everyday players at the High-A level, Carlos Correa, 19, has made huge developmental strides this season—albeit in the hitter-friendly California League—batting .330/.419/.507 with 24 extra-base hits (five home runs), 52 RBI, 20 stolen bases (in 24 attempts) and a 38-31 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 55 games.
Interestingly, the right-handed hitter has done nearly all his damage against same-sided pitching, with a 1.086 OPS in 164 at-bats.
1. Byron Buxton, OF, Minnesota Twins
Level: High-A Fort Myers (Disabled List)
Expected to open the year at Double-A New Britain, Byron Buxton suffered a wrist injury during spring training that delayed the start of his season until early May, when he returned to action for High-A Fort Myers.
However, after going 3-for-20 in his first five games, Buxton re-aggravated his previous wrist injury while sliding into third base and landed back on the disabled list. The 20-year-old outfielder now has been shut down for over a month and won’t resume baseball activities until the Twins are confident he’s fully healthy, according to La Velle E. Neal III of the Star Tribune.
Buxton remains the sport’s top prospect, despite his unfortunate injury and lack of development this season, as there’s still no other player who can match his combination of tools and upside.