MiLB

Testing the Hype Meter of MLB's 10 Best Prospects

Joel ReuterFeatured ColumnistJune 11, 2014

Testing the Hype Meter of MLB's 10 Best Prospects

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    USA TODAY Sports

    Each MLB team has four minor league levels that play full-season schedules, excluding Low-A and Rookie League ball, meaning that on any given day, there are 3,000 active players across the minor leagues.

    So for a young player to rank as one of the 10 best prospects in all of baseball puts him in the 99.7th percentile among all minor league players.

    In other words, if you're a top-10 prospect, you are fully expected to not only make an impact once you reach the big leagues, but to be a bona fide superstar and perennial All-Star-caliber performer.

    The 10 players on the list that follows have incredibly bright futures and are expected to be impact performers. But are they all worthy of the high praise they have received to this point?

    Each of these 10 guys has the potential to be great, and this is not meant to be a knock on any of them. What follows is my take on whether each of the top 10 prospects are under-hyped, properly hyped or over-hyped.

     

    *Prospect rankings taken from B/R's Mike Rosenbaum's Post-Draft Top 50 Prospects article.

    No. 3 prospect Gregory Polanco (PIT) not included after being called up to Pittsburgh.
    No. 11 prospect Miguel Sano (MIN) not included after undergoing season-ending Tommy John surgery this spring.

10. Lucas Giolito, RHP, Washington Nationals

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    Alex Brandon/Associated Press
    StatsGSIPW-LERAWHIPBB/9K/9
    2013 (RK, A-)1136.22-11.961.1453.49.6
    2014 (A)939.12-02.061.0683.910.8
    Career2178.04-12.081.1033.610.0

    Were it not for a sprained UCL during his senior year of high school that eventually required Tommy John surgery, Lucas Giolito would have been a surefire top-five pick in the 2012 draft. Instead, he slid to No. 16 overall, where the Washington Nationals were happy to scoop him up.

    He was brought along slowly last year, averaging just under 3.1 innings per start, but he flashed the potential that made him such a highly-regarded prospect pre-injury.

    Now in his first year of full-season ball, Giolito is again flashing a legitimate 80-grade fastball (on the 20-80 scouting scale) that can touch triple digits, complemented by a terrific 12-6 curveball and a developing changeup.

     

    Hype Meter: Under-hyped

    He has not often been mentioned alongside guys like Noah Syndergaard, Archie Bradley and Taijuan Walker in the conversation for the title of top pitching prospect in baseball, but Giolito may very well wind up better than all of them.

    "A lot can happen to a 19-year-old pitcher in A-ball between now and the time he reaches the major leagues," B/R prospect writer Mike Rosenbaum wrote back in April. "However, if Giolito stays healthy and continues down his current developmental path, the right-hander should have the chance to be a legitimate No. 1 starter."

9. Noah Syndergaard, RHP, New York Mets

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    Carlos Osorio/Associated Press
    StatsGIPW-LERAWHIPBB/9K/9
    2013 (A+, AA)23117.29-43.061.1472.110.2
    2014 (AAA)1154.15-34.471.4913.19.4
    Career79348.027-152.921.1702.610.0

    With Matt Harvey shining as a rookie in 2012 and Zack Wheeler turning in a promising rookie season last year, many thought the 2014 season was set up to be a coming-out party for right-hander Noah Syndergaard.

    The New York Mets acquired "Thor" from the Toronto Blue Jays in the R.A. Dickey trade, and he earned the start for the U.S. side in the Futures Game last year, as he went from promising prospect to one of the top pitching prospects in all of baseball.

    The big 6'6" right-hander can touch 98 with his fastball, and he complements it with a curveball/changeup combination, both potential plus pitches for him in the majors.

     

    Hype Meter: Over-hyped

    In the grand scheme of things, Syndergaard may very well wind up being the No. 3 starter in the Mets terrific young rotation, albeit a very good third starter. His ceiling is high, but his overall game is not as polished as one of the other top pitching prospects in the game, and he has been a bit over-hyped after a breakout 2013.

8. Jonathan Gray, RHP, Colorado Rockies

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    Rob Tringali/Getty Images
    StatsGIPW-LERAWHIPBB/9K/9
    2013 (RK, A+)937.14-01.930.8841.912.3
    2014 (AA)1264.06-33.661.0622.27.9
    Career21101.110-33.020.9972.19.5

    After lighting up radar guns at the University of Oklahoma, the Colorado Rockies drafted right-hander Jon Gray third overall in 2013. He opened his first full professional season at the Double-A level, as the Rockies have put him on the fast track.

    The big, burly right-hander has an 80-grade fastball that can reach triple digits and a wipeout slider that is already a plus strikeout pitch. His changeup is a solid third pitch, and he has shown impressive command to this point as a pro.

    Fellow prospect Eddie Butler has already earned a call-up this season, and with the Rockies rotation struggling once again, it may not be long before Gray joins him. He could anchor their staff for the next decade.

     

    Hype Meter: Properly hyped

    At 6'4" and 235 pounds, Gray has the classic workhorse build. With three solid pitches, smooth mechanics and a low-effort delivery, there is no reason he can't be a perennial 200-inning worker and a legitimate ace-caliber arm.

7. Archie Bradley, RHP, Arizona Diamondbacks

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    Cameron Spencer/Getty Images
    StatsGIPW-LERAWHIPBB/9K/9
    2013 (A+, AA)26152.014-51.841.2114.19.6
    2014 (AAA)524.11-45.181.5624.48.5
    Career60314.127-152.951.2534.79.8

    As advanced as any high school pitching prospect in recent memory, Archie Bradley jumped straight to Single-A South Bend as a 19-year-old, going 12-6 with a 3.84 ERA and 10.1 K/9 as one of the youngest arms in full-season ball.

    A two-sport starter who committed to play quarterback at the University of Oklahoma, Bradley was signed away from his college offer when the Arizona Diamondbacks made him the No. 7 pick in the 2011 draft. All signs point to him becoming the future ace of their staff.

    His numbers were less than impressive through five starts this season before he landed on the DL with an elbow injury, but he flashed his full upside with a monster 2013 season.

     

    Hype Meter: Properly hyped

    Prior to the Diamondbacks' signing of Bronson Arroyo this past offseason, some thought Bradley could break camp with a rotation spot and potentially provide the team with the frontline arm they were missing by the second half. His progression has been pushed back with this injury, but the ace upside is still there.

6. Kris Bryant, 3B, Chicago Cubs

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    USA TODAY Sports
    StatsGBA/OBP/SLGH2BHRRBIRSB
    2013 (RK, A-, A+)36.336/.390/.6884314932221
    2014 (AA)63.357/.460/.72282182255578
    Career99.349/.436/.709125323187799

    It's fair to say that the 2013 season was a successful one for Kris Bryant. He won the Golden Spikes Award, was selected No. 2 overall in the amateur draft, turned in a terrific pro debut and capped it off by winning Arizona Fall League MVP.

    The 22-year-old has done nothing but hit since signing, and his numbers are off the charts right now for Double-A Tennessee. He currently leads the Southern League in OPS (1.182), hits (82), home runs (22), RBI (55) and runs (57).

    Despite the excitement stemming from his red-hot start, Cubs farm director Jaron Madison acknowledged that Bryant still has some work to do in the minors while talking to Gordon Wittenmyer of the Chicago Sun-Times:

    Everybody’s excited. He’s excited. But those guys understand it’s going to take some time. They still have things they need to work on...For Bryant, he’s in his first pro season, and he’s trying to figure out how to get through a full season, playing every day, not playing three or four times a week.

    Chances are he'll jump straight from Double-A to the majors whenever the Chicago Cubs decide to promote him, and while there is some question about whether he'll stick at third base, his bat is going to make him a star in the big leagues.

     

    Hype Meter: Under-hyped

    Javier Baez remains ranked as the Cubs' top prospect in most circles, and his future is still incredibly bright in it's own right. At this point, however, it is Bryant who looks like the safer bet to be a superstar, and he may be the top position-player prospect in baseball right now.

5. Addison Russell, SS, Oakland Athletics

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    USA TODAY Sports
    StatsGBA/OBP/SLGH2BHRRBIRSB
    2013 (A+, AAA)110.269/.369/.4951192917608621
    2014 (AA, A+)4.500/.533/.786711322
    Career169.306/.392/.533206402510813439

    No prospect made more of an immediate splash following the 2012 draft than Addison Russell, as he signed early and hit .369/.432/.594 with 26 extra-base hits in 217 at-bats, while advancing three levels to Single-A.

    The No. 11 pick of his draft class, the shortstop followed that up by posting an .865 OPS with 29 doubles, 10 triples, 17 home runs and 21 stolen bases last year, earning him a three-game cup of coffee in Triple-A to close out the year.

    He returned on Sunday from a torn hamstring that cost him two months, and with incumbent shortstop Jed Lowrie set to hit free agency at the end of the season, he will be looking to prove that he is ready to make the jump to Oakland next year.

     

    Hype Meter: Properly hyped

    No one tool truly stands out for Russell, but he does everything well, and should provide a good mix of power and speed offensively as well as a plus glove up the middle. Still just 20 years old, his ceiling is very high, and he should make an immediate impact.

4. Francisco Lindor, SS, Cleveland Indians

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    Paul Sancya/Associated Press
    StatsGBA/OBP/SLGH2BHRRBIRSB
    2013 (A+, AA)104.303/.380/.407122222346525
    2014 (AA)60.280/.369/.3846564363717
    Career291.279/.365/.378319521211418970

    Selected with the No. 8 pick in the 2011 draft, one spot ahead of highly-touted Chicago Cubs prospect Javier Baez, the Cleveland Indians have had Francisco Lindor on the fast track to the majors since the day they signed him.

    An elite defensive shortstop who has the best glove in his class, the question was always whether Lindor would hit enough to be a star, but he put those concerns to rest with a breakout season at the plate last year.

    Like Addison Russell, he is waiting in the wings for incumbent Asdrubal Cabrera to depart in free agency this coming offseason, and he has a very real chance of being the Indians' everyday shortstop to kick off next year.

     

    Hype Meter: Over-hyped

    Lindor may never be a superstar, but he should be a rock-solid shortstop for the next decade. Speed is his biggest offensive asset, as he will never provide much power, but he should hit for a respectable average and get on base at a good enough clip to hit near the top of the lineup. He's a bit over-hyped, but he's a big part of the Indians' future.

3. Javier Baez, SS, Chicago Cubs

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    USA TODAY Sports
    StatsGBA/OBP/SLGH2BHRRBIRSB
    2013 (A+, AA)130.282/.341/.57814634371119820
    2014 (AAA)52.233/.291/.4464510931299
    Career267.276/.332/.540282596218917955

    One of the most impressive hitters in minor league baseball last year, Javier Baez posted a .920 OPS with 75 extra-base hits (37 home runs) and 111 RBI as a 20-year-old in Double-A.

    Elite bat speed is his biggest asset and gives him some of the best raw power in all of baseball, as he profiles as a future middle-of-the-order staple and perennial 30-HR, 100-RBI candidate for the rebuilding Cubs.

    After an impressive spring training, he struggled mightily in his first taste of Triple-A, hitting just .172 with 22 strikeouts in 58 at-bats in April. He's started to turn things around of late though, and if he gets hot, there is a good chance he gets at least a cup of coffee come September.

     

    Hype Meter: Over-hyped

    Baez has all the makings of a big-time run producer, but there is still a good deal of swing and miss to his game and his overly aggressive approach at the plate will need to be refined going forward. He's more raw than some of the other top prospects in baseball, leading me to call him over-hyped at this point, but his ceiling is as high as any position player in the minors.

2. Carlos Correa, SS, Houston Astros

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    Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images
    StatsGBA/OBP/SLGH2BHRRBIRSB
    2013 (A)117.320/.405/.467144339867310
    2014 (A+)56.332/.421/.50975155524420
    Career223.309/.389/.463268621715014536

    It was at least a mild surprise when the Houston Astros took shortstop Carlos Correa with the No. 1 pick in the 2012 draft, but it was a move that saved them some money and allowed them to sign high school right-hander Lance McCullers to an above-slot deal with the No. 41 pick.

    The decision has looked like a great one so far, as Correa has displayed an impressive collection of tools and the offensive upside to be a star on their rebuilding roster.

    His base stealing has been the biggest change this year, as he went 10-of-20 on stolen base attempts all of last year, and is already 20-of-24 through 56 games this year. He still has some developing to do as a 19-year-old at the High-A level, but his future is incredibly bright.

     

    Hype Meter: Properly hyped

    A certain level of expectation comes with being taken No. 1 overall, and Correa has answered the bell so far as a professional. It will be interesting to see how his career pans out versus Minnesota Twins prospect Byron Buxton, who was taken one spot after him, but both have a chance to be studs.

1. Byron Buxton, OF, Minnesota Twins

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    USA TODAY Sports
    StatsGBA/OBP/SLGH2BHRRBIRSB
    2013 (A, A+)125.334/.424/.52016319127710955
    2014 (A+)5.150/.150/.350311230
    Career178.308/.397/.49820730189914566

    The consensus top overall prospect on the board in 2012, Byron Buxton was scooped up by the Minnesota Twins with the No. 2 pick after the Houston Astros opted to go with high school shortstop Carlos Correa.

    His $6 million signing bonus was the largest of the draft class, but he has been worth every penny so far, as he is a legitimate five-tool talent who has progressed quicker than expected.

    After suffering a wrist injury in spring training, he played just five games before re-aggravating the injury, and he has been sidelined since. That could delay his big league arrival, but a debut at some point in 2015 still seems like a very real possibility.

     

    Hype Meter: Properly hyped

    He has the upside to be the best all-around offensive player in the game when he reaches his full potential, and barring something unforeseen, there is no reason to think he can't be a superstar and the face of a good, young Twins team once he arrives.

     

    All stats courtesy of MiLB.com, and current through Tuesday, June 10.  

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