Mike Rosenbaum's Official Year-End Top 100 MLB Prospect Rankings
Over the last month, Prospect Pipeline has looked at the top prospects for each position at every minor league level and every team’s prospect of the year. We even went so far as to re-rank all 30 farm systems.
But now it’s the time you’ve all been waiting for: an updated ranking of baseball’s top 100 prospects.
For the most part, the placement of the top 25 players is unchanged compared to our most recent update. However, there were numerous prospects (no spoilers!) that shot up the rankings over the course of the season, and many more have entered the ranks in the wake of this year’s amateur draft.
As is the case with all my rankings, any player who’s accrued 130 at-bats or 50 innings in the major leagues no longer qualifies as a prospect. Additionally, I don’t treat international free agents as true prospects, because there’s no benefit in comparing a 26-year-old Cuban player to an 18-year-old draft pick until they log significant stateside experience.
We hope everyone enjoys Prospect Pipeline's end-of-season top 100 prospects for 2014.
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
- Third-party reports
Tyler Naquin, OF, Cleveland Indians
Luis Torrens, C, New York Yankees
Michael Conforto, OF, New York Mets
Touki Toussaint, RHP, Arizona Diamondbacks
Michael Feliz, RHP, Houston Astros
Tyler Kolek, RHP, Miami Marlins
Orlando Arcia, MIF, Milwaukee Brewers
Kyle Freeland, LHP, Colorado Rockies
Amed Rosario, SS, New York Mets
Brett Phillips, OF, Houston Astros
Matt Barnes, RHP, Boston Red Sox
Jorge Mateo, SS, New York Yankees
Grant Holmes, RHP, Los Angeles Dodgers
100. Forrest Wall, 2B, Colorado Rockies
Forrest Wall fell to the Rockies with the No. 35 overall pick due to his limited defensive profile as a second base-only prospect and the fact that he underwent shoulder surgery prior to his senior year.
However, he quickly proved to be one of the biggest steals from Day 1 of the draft with an impressive professional debut, posting an .907 OPS with 15 extra-base hits and 18 steals over 41 games in the Rookie-level Pioneer League. The left-handed batter was particularly impressive against same-side pitching, batting .478/.613/.783 with three extra-base hits in 23 at-bats.
The 18-year-old second baseman has the potential to hit .300 and the raw power to hit 15-20 home runs in the majors, and he could be moved to center field long term, which would take advantage of his speed.
99. Francisco Mejia, C, Cleveland Indians
The 18-year-old switch-hitting backstop quietly put together an impressive campaign in the New York-Penn League, with a .282/.339/.407 batting line, 23 extra-base hits and 36 RBI over 66 games at Mahoning Valley.
Mejia has one of the highest ceilings among all catching prospects, but he’s still very raw defensively and several years away from being ready for the major leagues.
98. Reynaldo Lopez, RHP, Washington Nationals
Reynaldo Lopez was one of the biggest breakout prospects of the season, as the 20-year-old right-hander posted a minuscule 1.08 ERA and 0.82 WHIP while allowing just 42 hits in 83.1 innings (.149 BAA) between the Short Season and Low-A levels.
Lopez was especially dominant over his final seven starts in the South Atlantic League, with a 0.23 ERA, .303 opponents’ OPS and 34-8 strikeout-to-walk ratio over 39.2 innings.
After a slow start in 2014, the Nationals’ right-hander could be a fast riser in an organization lacking upper-level prospect talent.
97. Willy Adames, SS, Tampa Bay Rays
Acquired from the Tigers in the David Price deal at the trade deadline, Adames, 18, wasted little time flashing his offensive upside with his new organization, batting .278/.377/.433 with nine extra-base hits and 15 RBI over 27 games at Low-A Bowling Green.
Between both teams’ Low-A affiliates, Adames combined for a .271/.353/.429 batting line, eight home runs, 19 doubles, 14 triples and 61 RBI over 119 games. He also walked 54 times compared to 126 walks.
Adames is still several years away from making an impact in the major leagues, but he has the makings of an offense-oriented shortstop with above-average power and run-producing potential.
96. Ryan McMahon, 3B, Colorado Rockies
McMahon, 19, opened the season on a tear, posting a 1.092 OPS with nine home runs over his first 23 games. But the left-handed hitter’s power dropped off in a hurry in subsequent months, as he tallied just four home runs over his next 76 games covering May, June and July.
However, McMahon finished his season just like it began, with a .904 OPS, five home runs and eight doubles in 26 games during August. Overall, McMahon ranked second in the South Atlantic League in runs (93), doubles (46), OPS (.860) and RBI (tied 102).
95. 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 past spring at East Carolina gives the 21-year-old right-hander one of the higher ceilings among all pitching prospects.
94. Rio Ruiz, 3B, Houston Astros
Rio Ruiz continues to be one of the best hitters in the minor leagues no one is talking about. The third baseman had a consistent season in the hitter-friendly California League, as he batted .293/.387/.436 with 50 extra-base hits and 77 RBI over 131 games at High-A Lancaster. He also amassed 82 walks and 91 strikeouts on the season, an impressive total for a 20-year-old in his second full season of professional baseball.
The main question for Ruiz is whether his power will develop in order to turn his doubles into home runs. He always has been viewed as an extra-base machine with excellent plate discipline and an advanced approach, but the left-handed batter has 70 doubles compared to 23 home runs in 245 games between both Class-A levels over the last two seasons.
If his power does not develop and he is not good enough on defense to play third base, he would be a tough fit as a first baseman who hits .280 with 10 home runs. If everything clicks, he could be a third baseman who hits .300 with 20-plus home runs, which could turn him into a potential All-Star.
93. Matt Olson, 1B, Oakland Athletics
Matt Olson, the No. 47 overall pick in the 2012 draft, ranked second in the Low-A Midwest League last year (his full-season debut) with 23 home runs. This year, the 20-year-old slugger led the California League and ranked third in all of the minors with 37 home runs. He also paced the league with 111 runs scored, 278 total bases and 117 walks.
The California League is hitter-friendly, but Stockton is slightly slanted toward pitchers, which makes Olson's higher output at home (.262/.402/.591 with 21 homers) as opposed to on the road (.262/.406/.496 with 16 homers) all the more impressive.
92. Eduardo Rodriguez, LHP, Boston Red Sox
Eduardo Rodriguez turned his season around in a big way after coming over from the Orioles at the trade deadline, posting a 0.96 ERA, 1.02 WHIP and 39-8 strikeout-to-walk ratio over 37.1 innings (six starts).
The 21-year-old southpaw was having a down year before the trade, with a 4.79 ERA and 1.44 ERA over 82.2 innings with Double-A Bowie. With 179.2 innings at the Double-A level over the last two years, Rodriguez should begin the 2015 season at Triple-A Pawtucket.
91. Trea Turner, SS, San Diego Padres
Trea Turner, the No. 13 overall pick in this year’s draft, got off to a slow start to begin his career, batting just .228 over 23 games in the Short Season Northwest League.
Despite his struggles, the Padres decided to promote Turner to Low-A Fort Wayne in mid-July, which in turn jump-started his bat. During his 46 games at the full-season level, Turner batted a robust .369/.447/.529 with 69 hits (22 extra-base hits) and 14 steals. He also hit safely in 35 of those games, highlighted by 22 multihit performances.
Known more for his speed and defense headed into the draft, Turner showed surprisingly consistent pop this past summer, though it still was mostly to the gaps. It’ll be interesting to see how aggressive the Padres are with Turner’s development next season.
90. Rafael Devers, 3B, Boston Red Sox
The Red Sox signed Devers out of the Dominican Republic last summer for $1.5 million, though the 17-year-old third baseman didn’t make his professional until this year.
Devers made an immediate impact in the Dominican Summer League, batting .337/.445/.538 with 12 extra-base hits in 28 games, and he was rewarded with an ahead-of-schedule promotion to the Gulf Coast League.
The left-handed hitter continued to open eyes in his stateside debut, as he batted a cool .312/.374/.484 with 17 extra-base hits and 36 RBI over 42 games.
He’s still young and has a long road ahead of him toward the major leagues, but a strong case can be made that Devers already possesses the highest ceiling in Boston’s system.
89. Tyrone Taylor, OF, Milwaukee Brewers
Tyrone Taylor’s numbers this season at High-A Brevard County were nearly identical to those he posted last year in his full-season debut at Low-A Wisconsin. The only difference between the 20-year-old’s two seasons is that his latest came in the pitcher-friendly Florida State League.
Taylor was moved up to Double-A Huntsville for the final week of the season after batting .278/.331/.396 with 45 extra-base hits (36 doubles), 23 stolen bases and a 63-40 strikeout-to-walk ratio over 130 games at Brevard County.
Taylor likely won’t be ready for the major leagues for another two years, but the toolsy center fielder has the makings of a 20-20 player in his prime.
88. Daniel Robertson, SS, Oakland Athletics
With the A’s decision to trade Addison Russell in early July, Daniel Robertson went from the "other shortstop" selected in the first round of the 2012 draft (after Addison Russell) to the shortstop of the future.
That distinction had as much to do with Robertson’s performance as it did the trade, as the 20-year-old batted .310/.402/.471 with 15 home runs, 37 doubles and 60 RBI over 132 games at High-A Stockton.
Robertson is now the top prospect in the Athletics organization, and should start 2015 with Double-A Midland after getting his feet wet during the Texas League playoffs.
87. Manuel Margot, OF, Boston Red Sox
Signed out of the Dominican Republic in 2011, Margot showcased a promising blend of power, speed and on-base skills this year in his full-season debut.
The 19-year-old center fielder was promoted to High-A Salem after batting .286/.355/.449 with 35 extra-base hits, 39 stolen bases and a 49-37 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 99 games at Low-A Greenville.
Moving up to the Carolina League didn’t disrupt Margot’s tear at the plate, as he posted an impressive .340/.364/.560 batting line with seven extra-base and 14 RBI in 16 games with Salem.
86. Jake Thompson, RHP, Texas Rangers
Thompson was acquired from the Tigers along with Corey Knebel in late July as part of the Joakim Soria trade. The 20-year-old right-hander has continued to excel after joining Double-A Frisco, posting a 3.28 ERA, .219 BAA and 44-18 strikeout-to-walk ratio over 35.2 innings.
Overall, Thompson posted a 3.12 ERA, 1.23 WHIP and 130-47 strikeout-to-walk ratio over 129.2 innings between the High- and Double-A levels. If all goes as planned with his development, Thompson could be ready for his first taste of the major leagues in late 2015.
85. Kyle Crick, RHP, San Francisco Giants
The Giants moved up Kyle Crick to Double-A this season knowing that there was a good chance he’d struggle in the Eastern League due to his lack of control—and that’s exactly what happened.
The 21-year-old right-hander managed to post a solid 3.79 ERA, but it was directly tied to his ability to miss bats (11.1 K/9) and limit hard contact (.234 BAA). Beyond that, it’s pretty hard to ignore Crick’s 61 walks in 90.1 innings (6.1 BB/9) and 1.54 WHIP, as it resulted in too many high pitch counts and prevented him from working deep into games.
Crick still has the potential to be a solid No. 2 pitcher based on his pure stuff, though his poor control/command continues to lead to too many walks and high pitch counts and prevents him from pitching deep into games. He’s still young, but it’s becoming increasingly difficult to envision Crick in anything but a bullpen role.
84. Lucas Sims, RHP, Atlanta Braves
Coming off an impressive full-season debut in 2013, Sims seemed poised to further his success this season at High-A Lynchburg, but got off to a painfully slow start with a 5.00 ERA and 38-28 strikeout-to-walk ratio over his first 72 innings (14 starts) in the Carolina League.
But just as he did in 2013, Sims settled in during the second half and turned in a strong finish to his season, pitching to a 3.51 ERA and 69-32 strikeout-to-walk ratio over 84.2 innings (14 starts).
Sims struggled with some mechanical issues throughout the year, but late-season reports from the right-hander’s starts noted that his stuff was as crisp and promising as it was last year. The Braves have always done well developing its top pitching prospects (and quickly), so I wouldn’t be overly concerned with Sims’ disappointing 2014 stats.
83. Marco Gonzales, LHP, St. Louis Cardinals
Marco Gonzales, the Cardinals' first-round pick from 2013, received a look in the major leagues in late June, but he posted a rough 7.07 ERA, 2.29 WHIP and 10-to-11 strikeout-to-walk ratio over 14 innings (three starts). The 22-year-old left-hander showcased his impressive changeup and overall impressive feel for his craft, but it was clear he wasn't ready for the big time yet.
After spending most of July and August at Triple-A Memphis, Gonzales has pitched well since his return to the major leagues as a September call-up, registering a 2.70 ERA with 18 strikeouts over 16.2 innings. The southpaw should compete during spring training for a spot in the Cardinals’ Opening Day starting rotation.
82. Nomar Mazara, OF, Texas Rangers
Mazara made the jump directly to Double-A Frisco after posting an .828 OPS with 19 home runs while repeating the Low-A level. The 19-year-old outfielder impressed during his 24 games in the Texas League, batting .306/.381/.518 with 11 extra-base hits and 16 RBI.
On the season, the 6'4", 195-pound, left-handed hitter batted .271/.362/.478 with 22 home runs, 28 doubles, 89 RBI and a 121-66 strikeout-to-walk ratio over 130 games.
The fact that Mazara was promoted directly from Low- to Double-A speaks volumes about his potential, not to mention his overall maturity and makeup. At maturity, he has the potential to hit 25-plus home runs at the major league level.
81. Alex Reyes, RHP, St. Louis Cardinals
Alex Reyes flashed his huge upside this season as a 19-year-old in full-season ball, ranking fifth in the Midwest League with 137 strikeouts. While the right-hander was difficult to barrel (.207 BAA) and consistently missed bats (11.3 K/9), his lack of control was a season-long problem and resulted in 58 walks (5.02 BB/9).
80. Max Fried, LHP, San Diego Padres
Max Fried missed the first three months of the season due to forearm tightness before returning in early July. He wound up making five starts between the Arizona League Padres and Low-A Fort Wayne before his ulnar collateral ligament gave out and required Tommy John surgery.
The 2012 first-round pick will now likely be out until 2016.
79. Gabby Guerrero, OF, Seattle Mariners
The nephew of Vladimir Guerrero, Gabby showcased his raw talent last year in his full-season debut by batting .271/.303/.358 with 30 extra-base hits but 113 strikeouts in 125 games at Low-A Clinton. The 20-year-old has shown more consistent power as well as better plate discipline this season at High-A High Desert, though he did benefit from the hitter-friendly environments in the California League.
That being said, Guerrero’s improved power frequency put him on the big league radar this season, as he established career highs in most offensive categories, including home runs (18), doubles (28), RBI (96) and stolen bases (18). Overall, he batted .307/.347/.467 in 131 games.
Guerrero has the potential to hit .300 while hitting 20 home runs and 20 stolen bases, but will likely need a full season in Double-A in 2015 before making his major league debut in mid-2016.
78. Rob Kaminsky, LHP, St. Louis Cardinals
Left-hander Rob Kaminsky, the No. 28 overall pick in the 2013 draft, enjoyed an impressive full-season debut at Low-A Peoria, pacing all Midwest League pitchers (with at least 100 innings) with a 1.88 ERA while holding opposing hitters to an overall batting line of .194/.266/.251 over 407 plate appearances.
The 20-year-old southpaw didn’t miss as many bats as expected this season, but his pure stuff and ability to attack hitters suggests that will come with experience. Either way, Kaminsky’s handedness, present feel for pitching and lack of physical projection could have him moving quickly toward starting next year.
77. Garin Cecchini, 3B/LF, Boston Red Sox
Garin Cecchini received an unexpected call-up earlier this season and picked up his first big league hit in his only game, a ringing double off the Green Monster. Beyond that, Cecchini, 23, scuffled at Triple-A Pawtucket for most of the season, posting a disappointing .263/.341/.371 batting line to go along with seven home runs and a 99-44 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 114 games.
Cecchini’s lack of power isn’t a clean fit at the hot corner—which is why he also saw time in left field this season—but he has the tools and offensive skills to be a solid big leaguer. He’s slightly blocked at third base with the Red Sox, so it wouldn’t be surprising if the 23-year-old were dangled as trade bait this offseason, especially after getting a longer taste of the major leagues as a September call-up.
76. Micah Johnson, 2B, Chicago White Sox
Johnson was named the White Sox’s 2013 Minor League Player of the Year after batting .312/.373/.451 in his full-season debut, with 106 runs, 46 extra-base hits and 84 stolen bases in 131 games across three levels.
This season, the 23-year-old second baseman showed better plate discipline and made more consistent contact, batting .294/.351/.403 with five home runs, 44 RBI, and 22 stolen bases over 102 games this season between Double-A Birmingham and Triple-A Charlotte. However, it is worth noting that he struggled on the basepaths with 22 stolen bases in 35 attempts.
Johnson was a strong candidate for a September call-up, especially after the White Sox traded Gordon Beckham, but a hamstring injury in late August ended his season ahead of schedule. He’ll likely compete for the starting second base job next spring.
75. Kyle Schwarber, C/OF, Chicago Cubs
Kyle Schwarber was assigned to Short Season Boise after signing for $3.125 million as the No. 4 overall pick, where he batted .600 with four home runs and 10 RBI in his first five games.
The 21-year-old continued to terrorize opposing pitching following a promotion to Low-A Kane County, as he batted .361/.448/.602 with four homers, eight doubles and 15 RBI in just 23 games.
And it was only fitting that the left-handed hitter batted .302/.393/.560 with 20 extra-base hits (10 home runs) in 44 games at High-A Daytona to conclude his professional debut.
While Schwarber’s bat looks as though it will be ready sooner rather than later, it will be his development on the other side of the ball that determines when he arrives in the major leagues.
Schwarber appeared in only 20 games behind the plate compared to 36 in left field during his professional debut, but he’ll work on refining his defensive chops this fall in the instructional league.
He’ll require additional time in the minors to develop as a catcher, the position at which he was drafted, though a move to the outfield full time is still a possibility and would allow the Cubs to expedite his bat to the major leagues.
74. Dalton Pompey, OF, Toronto Blue Jays
Pompey, a 21-year-old switch-hitter, emerged as one the game’s more intriguing power-speed prospects this year, as his September debut in the major leagues marked his fourth level of the season.
Pompey began his season with High-A Dunedin in the pitcher-friendly Florida State League before moving up to Double-A New Hampshire in late June. Pompey played in only 31 Eastern League games before he received another promotion, this time moving up to Triple-A Buffalo.
After batting .358/.393/.453 with 15 runs scored and six stolen bases in 12 Triple-A games, Pompey was officially called up to the major leagues. He finished his second full professional season in the minors with a .313/.388/.462 batting line, nine home runs, nine triples, 20 doubles, 43 stolen bases and an 84-52 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 494 plate appearances (112 games) across three levels.
Pompey has a high-end combination of hit/speed potential while also playing a solid center field—all attributes he’s showcased since arriving in the major leagues. Given the Blue Jays’ ongoing lack of production from center fielders Colby Rasmus and Anthony Gose, it isn’t surprising that the organization has given Pompey additional playing time over the final week of the regular season.
73. Jake Lamb, 3B, Arizona Diamondbacks
Jake Lamb, 23, spent most of the season raking in the Southern League, posting a .318/.399/.551 batting line, 14 home runs, 35 doubles and 79 RBI over 103 games at Double-A Mobile.
Specifically, an adjustment to Lamb’s swing this spring allowed him to create better leverage through the ball and, in turn, tap into his above-average raw power more consistently. He’d been a doubles machine throughout his career, but Lamb began clearing more fences and realizing his power potential.
He was rewarded with a promotion to Triple-A Reno in early August, but he quickly found himself starting for the Arizona Diamondbacks after just five games at the minor’s highest level.
Lamb has mostly scuffled during his time in Arizona, batting just .236/.274/.400 with four home runs, four doubles, 11 RBI and 33 strikeouts in 27 games. However, the left-handed hitter is on pace for a strong finish to his first taste of The Show, with a .750 OPS and six extra-base hits in 16 games this month.
72. Alen Hanson, 2B, Pittsburgh Pirates
Gregory Polanco’s rise through Pittsburgh’s system this season has overshadowed Hanson’s strong performance in Double-A, where the 21-year-old switch-hitter has posted a .283/.328/.449 batting line with 21 doubles, 12 triples and 11 home runs through 115 games. He’s also stolen 24 bases in 33 attempts.
Hanson has spent most of his professional career at shortstop, but he’s been playing second base exclusively since the beginning of August. He committed four errors in 17 games at the keystone, though the position change didn’t affect his overall production.
71. Christian Bethancourt, C, Atlanta Braves
Christian Bethancourt appeared in 13 games with the Atlanta Braves earlier in the season, batting .240/.283/.260 with 14 strikeouts during that span.
The 23-year-old spent most of his season at Triple-A Gwinnett, where he posted a good-but-not-great .283/.308/.408 batting line to go along with 26 extra-base hits (eight home runs) in 91 minor league games.
Bethancourt has been working closely with Gerald Laird since rejoining the Braves in September, as the veteran’s tutelage could be huge for the young catcher in terms of the 2015 season, especially if the Braves decide to trade Evan Gattis this winter.
70. Hunter Renfroe, OF, San Diego Padres
Selected with the No. 13 overall pick in the 2013 draft, Hunter Renfroe, 22, put up an impressive .295/.370/.565 line with 40 extra-base hits in the California League, which included a .343/.415/.636 line over his last 34 games.
However, Renfroe’s aggressive approach at the plate and swing-and-miss tendencies hurt his power frequency after moving up to Double-A San Antonio, as he hit just five home runs in 60 games after totaling 16 in 69 High-A contests.
The raw-but-talented outfielder will likely return to San Antonio to begin the 2015 season.
69. Marcos Molina, RHP, New York Mets
Marcos Molina, 19, paced the New York-Penn League in most categories, including ERA (1.77), WHIP (0.84), strikeouts (91) and opponents’ batting average (.170). He finished his season in style, too, with 50 strikeouts over his final 34.2 frames.
Molina will likely finish the season in Brooklyn and open 2015 with Low-A Savannah.
68. Nick Williams, OF, Texas Rangers
Williams hit .292/.343/.491 with 28 doubles, four triples and 13 home runs at High-A Myrtle Beach, but he also struck out 117 times compared to 19 walks in 94 games.
The 21-year-old outfielder is an aggressive hitter, with a lightning-quick bat, impressive barrel control and above-average power, but obviously there’s still reason to worry whether his free-swinging approach will allow those hitting tools to translate against advanced pitching.
Williams moved up to Double-A Frisco for the end of the season and the Texas League playoffs and will likely return to the level to start 2015—a potentially telling year for the left-handed hitting outfielder.
67. Rymer Liriano, OF, San Diego Padres
Rymer Liriano appeared to be on the fast track to the major leagues headed into the 2013 season, but he suffered an elbow injury during the spring that ultimately required season-ending (Tommy John) surgery.
Fully healthy for 2014, Liriano has quickly reminded everyone why he’s been one of the San Diego Padres’ more highly touted prospects for the last several years. The outfielder was assigned to Double-A San Antonio to begin his season—the level at which he left off prior to the elbow injury—where be batted .264/.335/.442 with 20 doubles and 14 home runs over 99 games.
Facing various injuries and dealing with a lack of production at the highest level, the Padres promoted Liriano to Triple-A El Paso in late July, and the 23-year-old responded to the challenge by batting .452 (28-for-62) with 16 extra-base hits and 13 RBI in 16 games.
The Padres called up Liriano on Aug. 11, and he quickly made his presence felt at the highest level with a booming home run in his third career game. Beyond that, though, he’s mostly struggled in his first taste of the big leagues this season, with a .225/.292/.275 batting line and 35 strikeouts through 35 games.
66. Michael Taylor, OF, Washington Nationals
After years of flashing his potential at lower levels, Michael Taylor, 23, finally put things together this season in the high minors, doing a little bit of everything offensively while offering his usual plus defense in center field.
Taylor’s game still features too much swing-and-miss, as evidenced by his 144-57 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 493 plate appearances, but his contact rate is still trending up and helped him established career highs with 18 home runs and 57 walks.
Taylor has all the tools to be an impact everyday center fielder in the major leagues. However, at 23, he’s still a very unrefined player who has more natural ability than usable baseball skills. That said, he’s still very young and received his first taste of The Show this summer, so it’ll be interesting to see whether he continues to make developmental strides in 2015.
65. Matt Wisler, RHP, San Diego Padres
Matt Wisler dominated at Double-A San Antonio during the first month of the season, posting a 2.10 ERA and 35-6 strikeout-to-walk ratio over 30 innings (six starts) en route to an early-season promotion to Triple-A El Paso.
Though he mostly struggled during his time in the Pacific Coast League, the 21-year-old right-hander was able to finish his season on a positive note, registering a 3.38 ERA and 8.6 K/9 in 48 innings over his final eight starts.
While his fly-ball and home run tendencies will be less of an issue in the pitcher-friendly confines of Petco Park, Wisler still hasn’t figured out how to retire left-handed batters, highlighted by their .279/.333/.462 batting line against him this season.
64. Michael Lorenzen, RHP, Cincinnati Reds
Michael Lorenzen's success as a starting pitcher this season was a pleasant surprise, as the right-hander had served as Cal State Fullerton's closer and center fielder prior to his selection by the Cincinnati Reds (No. 38 overall) in the 2013 draft.
The 22-year-old blew past expectations in his first full season as a starter (and at the Double-A level nonetheless), as his improved command and feel for multiple pitches allowed him to turn over Southern League lineups and work relatively deep into starts. His overall command and changeup require refinement, but the 6’3”, 195-pound right-hander proved this year that he’s more than a late-inning arm.
Plus, with his two-way background, Lorenzen was also an offensive threat for Pensacola, posting a .757 OPS with one home run (a grand slam off Archie Bradley), three doubles and seven RBI in 38 plate appearances.
63. Aaron Judge, OF, New York Yankees
Aaron Judge, the No. 32 overall selection in the 2013 draft, was unable to make his professional debut last summer due to a quad injury, which in turn cast doubt about how he'd fare when thrust into full-season ball the following year.
Well, the 22-year-old outfielder answered those questions by batting .333/.428/.530 with nine home runs, 15 doubles and 45 RBI in 65 games for Low-A Charleston before moving up to High-A Tampa.
Judge’s production carried over in the pitcher-friendly Florida State League, where he posted a .283/.411/.442 batting line to go along with eight home runs, nine doubles and 33 RBI in 66 games.
The 22-year-old is the size of many NBA small forwards but has a surprisingly compact swing, while his approach and pitch recognition (89 walks, 131 strikeouts in 563 plate appearances) proved to be more advanced than expected. As long as he stays healthy, Judge has the potential for 20-plus home runs with a high on-base percentage while playing a solid right field in the major leagues.
62. Dilson Herrera, 2B, New York Mets
Acquired from the Pittsburgh Pirates late last season in the Marlon Byrd trade, Dilson Herrera, 20, is currently in the major leagues after a breakout campaign in his first year in the Mets’ system.
Prior to the call-up, Herrera was putting up impressive numbers at Double-A Binghamton, batting .340/.406/.560 with 17 doubles, three triples and 10 home runs over 61 games in the Eastern League.
Unfortunately, Herrera suffered a quad strain last weekend against the Braves that will have him sidelined for the final month of the regular season. The second baseman hit .220/.303/.407 with three home runs and 11 RBI over 18 major league games.
61. Nick Kingham, RHP, Pittsburgh Pirates
Nick Kingham continued his quick rise toward the major leagues this season with a strong showing between the Double- and Triple-A levels. The 22-year-old right-hander fared well at the more advanced level, with a 3.58 ERA, 1.10 WHIP and 65-27 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 88 innings, and he’s also held opposing batters to a .213 average and .598 OPS during that span.
Though Kingham isn’t a strikeout artist, he does miss enough bats where they will at least be an aspect of his game. He’s fanned nearly two less batters per nine innings this season than he did the two previous years, but that’s also a product of him being a younger pitcher at the minor’s highest levels.
He doesn’t have the ceiling of fellow right-handers Gerrit Cole and Jameson Taillon, but Kingham’s deep arsenal and ability to eat innings should make him a solid No. 3 or 4 starter, possibly as early as mid-2015.
60. A.J. Cole, RHP, Washington Nationals
A.J. Cole, 22, opened the season at Double-A Harrisburg, posting a 2.92 ERA and a 61-to-15 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 71 innings over 14 starts. He received a promotion to Triple-A Syracuse in late June.
While the right-hander had registered a solid 3.29 ERA over 52 innings in the International League through Aug. 15, he fanned only 37 batters against 12 walks during that span, while opposing hitters batted .296 with seven home runs (.827 OPS, for those wondering).
Cole’s ability to pump strikes with his impressive fastball has fueled his rise through the minor leagues, but he won’t be able to get away with just the one pitch in The Show. Therefore, he’ll need to improve his breaking ball and changeup in order to avoid a long-term bullpen role.
59. Steven Matz, LHP, New York Mets
The New York Mets selected Steven Matz in the second round of the 2009 draft, but the left-hander underwent Tommy John surgery after signing and didn’t make his professional debut until 2012. Since then, however, the 23-year-old has made up for the lost time with a dominating ascent through the Mets system.
Matz began his first season at the High-A level by posting a 2.21 ERA with 62 strikeouts in 69.1 innings in the Florida State League, earning a midseason promotion to Double-A Binghamton. The southpaw was even more impressive in the Eastern League, registering a 2.27 ERA with 69 strikeouts in 71.1 innings.
Matz also pitched to 1.28 ERA with 48 strikeouts and nine walks over his final 42.1 innings (seven starts), and he struck out a season-high 11 batters over 7.1 innings Sept. 12 and helped the B-Mets capture the Eastern League crown.
The 6’2”, 200-pound left-hander primarily relies on a low to mid-90s fastball with heavy sink and still needs to refine his secondaries, but his performance at a pair of advanced levels this season was very encouraging and has him poised to make an impact in 2015.
58. Clint Frazier, OF, Cleveland Indians
After scuffling through the first three months of the season, Frazier, 20, ultimately settled in to bat .282/.367/.448 with nine home runs and 11 doubles in 65 games during the second half of the season—when most of his full-season debut peers were battling fatigue.
Frazier’s strikeout rate remains a concern after fanning 29.7 percent of the time this season, but he still produced a respectable 10.3 percent walk rate behind an approach that noticeably improved as the season unfolded.
57. 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.
In his first taste of professional baseball, Gordon batted .294/.333/.366 with one home run, 28 RBI and 11 steals over 57 games for Rookie-level Elizabethton. However, his season was cut short (albeit by only a few games) when he suffered a broken finger during the Appalachian League playoffs.
56. Austin Meadows, OF, Pittsburgh Pirates
Austin Meadows, the No. 9 overall pick in the 2013 draft, missed the first three months of the season with a hamstring injury, but he returned during the second half to hit .322/.388/.486 with 17 extra-base hits over 38 games in the South Atlantic League.
Based on his impressive second half at Low-A West Virginia, it’s plausible that Meadows could start 2015 with High-A Bradenton. He’s unlikely to reach the major leagues until 2017, but he carries the upside of a .300 hitter with 15-homer power and a decent chance of remaining in center field.
55. Luis Severino, RHP, New York Yankees
Luis Severino, 20, dominated this season across three advanced levels, including a 2.52 ERA and 29-6 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 25 innings over six starts at Trenton. Between all three stops, the promising right-hander posted a 2.46 ERA, .220 BAA and 127-27 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 113.1 innings. After logging 44 innings in 2013, Severino’s steady performance despite a career-high workload this season was as impressive as the results.
Though he’s undersized at 6’0”, 195 pounds, the right-hander features an explosive mid-90s fastball that bumps 96 to 97 mph as well as a pair of promising secondary offerings in a sharp slider and quickly improving changeup.
54. Chi Chi Gonzalez, RHP, Texas Rangers
Chi Chi Gonzalez’s command was on the raw side coming out of college, but a full season facing quality hitters at the High- and Double-A levels has improved his execution within the strike zone.
The 22-year-old right-hander was promoted to Double-A after registering a 2.62 ERA and 49-16 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 65.1 innings for High-A Myrtle Beach. His success carried over to the Texas League, where he pitched to a 2.70 ERA with 64 strikeouts over 73.1 frames.
Gonzalez lacks a high ceiling, but I wouldn’t put it past him to blow past all expectations regarding his potential, especially when considering his overwhelming success this year in his first full season. He’ll have a spot waiting for him in the Rangers’ rotation once he’s ready.
53. Sean Manaea, LHP, Kansas City Royals
There was an argument that Manaea was the top college pitcher in the 2013 draft, but a hip issue caused him to drop to the 34th overall pick. Suffice it to say, the Royals are ecstatic that he fell to them.
Manaea was on cruise control over his final eight starts at High-A Wilmington, posting a 1.23 ERA, .180 BAA (.462 OPS) and 55-15 strikeout-to-walk ratio over 51.1 innings. The left-hander didn’t allow more than five hits in a game during that span, and capped his impressive professional debut with 12 strikeouts over seven scoreless innings in his penultimate start.
Manaea should begin 2015 at Double-A Northwest Arkansas and, if all goes according to plan, join the Royals’ starting rotation later in the season.
52. Jorge Alfaro, C/1B, Texas Rangers
Jorge Alfaro continued to drop jaws with his potential on both sides of the ball, though both facets of his game remained raw and inconsistent.
The 21-year-old once again enjoyed a strong offensive campaign, with a .261 batting average, 48 (17 home runs) extra-base hits and 87 RBI through 121 games. However, his approach and plate discipline didn’t improved as hoped, as Alfaro struck out 123 times against just 29 walks. And while he’s thrown out base stealers at a 28 percent clip in 90 games behind the dish, he’s also committed 13 errors to go along with 23 passed balls.
Alfaro likely will need at least two more seasons in the minors to refine his defense and approach, which means he could be ready to debut with the Rangers at some point during the 2016 season.
51. Brandon Nimmo, OF, New York Mets
Brandon Nimmo, the No. 13 pick in the 2011 draft, had his prospect stock take off this season thanks to a breakout performance at High-A St. Lucie and now Double-A Binghamton.
Nimmo’s batting average (.238) and on-base percentage (.339) dropped off after his midseason promotion to Double-A, but he actually showed more consistent power with six home runs, 12 doubles and four triples over 65 games.
Overall, the 21-year-old outfielder posted a .278/.394/.426 batting line with 40 extra-base hits, including a career-high 10 home runs, 14 stolen bases and a 105-86 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 127 games.
He hasn’t begun to fully tap into his raw power as hoped, but the left-handed batter continues to hit for average and get on base at a high clip while also holding his own in center field.
50. Kohl Stewart, RHP, Minnesota Twins
The Minnesota Twins bumped Stewart, the No. 4 overall pick in the 2013 draft, up to Low-A Cedar Rapids for his first full professional season, and for the most part the 19-year-old right-hander rewarded the organization for its confidence.
In his first 19 starts, Stewart registered a 2.59 ERA in 87 innings while striking out 62 batters against 24 walks. More importantly, the promising right-hander, who works on a consistent downhill plane with his low 90s fastball, held opposing hitters to a .221 average and allowed only four home runs.
Stewart was scratched from a start in late July due to a right shoulder impingement and subsequently landed on the disabled list. The Twins allowed Stewart to return to Low-A in mid-August but probably should have shut him down for the season, as he left his second start back from the disabled list with the same shoulder soreness. In his words (via Jeffrey Johnson of Source Media Group), “I felt like (crap), tried to pitch through it.”
Hopefully the injury was a result of his long, grueling full-season debut and nothing related to the overall health and structure of his shoulder.
49. Raimel Tapia, OF, Colorado Rockies
Outfielder Raimel Tapia, 20, showcased an assortment of loud tools and advanced secondary skills this season at Low-A Asheville, as he finished third in the South Atlantic League in batting average (.326) and hits (157) and fourth in on-base percentage (.382) and stolen bases (33).
Asheville’s home field is a notoriously hitter-friendly park, with a ridiculously short right field porch that caters to left-handed hitters such as Tapia. Therefore, it’s not surprising that he did most of his damage at home this season, with a robust .350/.391/.534 batting line, all nine home runs and 16 doubles in 60 games. That being said, he still held his own on the road with a .304/.374/.377 batting line and 14 doubles, but it obviously pales in comparison to the power he showed in Asheville.
Tapia’s still raw in his approach, but he has the bat-to-ball skills and bat speed to contend for a batting title in his prime and could be in the majors by mid-2016.
48. Aaron Nola, RHP, Philadelphia Phillies
Aaron Nola, 21, was assigned to High-A Clearwater of the Florida State League following his selection by the Phillies with the No. 7 overall pick. There, he registered a 3.16 ERA and 30-5 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 31.1 innings.
The right-hander fared even better after moving up to Double-A Reading in early August, pitching to a 2.63 ERA over 24 innings, but he had his strikeout rate halved against more advanced hitters in the Eastern League.
Between both levels, Nola walked just 10 batters in 55.1 innings (1.7 BB/9) and held opposing hitters to a .240 batting average.
The Phillies have Nola on the fast track to the major leagues, and if all goes as planned with the right-hander’s development, he should spend most of 2015 in the team’s starting rotation. There may be some bumps in the road along the way, but Nola has a high probability of reaching his potential—and soon.
47. Albert Almora, OF, Chicago Cubs
Albert Almora struggled during the first half of the season, batting only .245/.266/.325 with two home runs and six walks through his first 59 games. After that, though, Almora made up for the slow start by batting .292/.313/.460 with 79 hits (25 extra-base hits) over his final 66 contests.
The 20-year-old’s overall numbers might have been more impressive if not for his struggles after moving up to Double-A Tennessee, where he batted just .234/.250/.355 with a 23-2 strikeout-to-walk ratio over 36 games.
Almora was the sixth overall pick in the 2012 draft and is just 20 years old, making the fact that he was not embarrassed in the Southern League impressive. He uses an aggressive, high-contact approach where walks are relatively rare, so he will have to hit for a high average in order to reach his potential. Luckily, he has the bat-to-ball skills and barrel control to make that happen.
46. Maikel Franco, 3B/1B, Philadelphia Phillies
Maikel Franco overcame a rough first half (.649 OPS in 87 games) at Triple-A Lehigh Valley and finally turned the corner in July, batting .324/.344/.579 with 30 extra-base hits (11 home runs) and 47 RBI over his final 54 games. The 22-year-old third baseman’s second-half surge convinced the Phillies he was ready to be challenged at the highest level, so they called him up on Sept. 1 for the final month of the season.
Franco’s collected eight hits and plated five runs over his first 14 games in the major leagues, but his at-bats have been inconsistent overall and produced just one walk in 50 plate appearances compared to 12 strikeouts.
His defense has been a pleasant surprise, however, as the 6’1”, 180-pounder has flashed some serious leather during his short time in the major leagues, such as this play to his left and this one to his right. He also made a nice running, over-the-shoulder catch in foul territory while playing first base.
Third base should be his position to lose next spring—at worst he begins the season in a platoon with Cody Asche—though it still would be nice to see him put together a few more consistent performances down the stretch.
45. Stephen Piscotty, OF, St. Louis Cardinals
Stephen Piscotty continued to rake this season at Triple-A Memphis, but never showed the in-game power that many were expecting in his second full professional season. That being said, he did show good pop last season (15 home runs, 23 doubles) and certainly has the physical strength at 6'3", 210 pounds to be a 15 to 20 home run guy in his prime.
Though he had a solid campaign overall (.288/.355/.406, 41 extra-base hits), the 23-year-old right fielder scuffled following the Triple-A All-Star break, batting .253/.339/.340 with eight extra-base hits over his final 45 games.
Though he's one of several outfielders still vying for a spot in the Cardinals outfield, Piscotty's knack for hammering left-handed pitching and solid defense in right field should help him reach the major leagues at some point next season.
44. Mark Appel, RHP, Houston Astros
To say that Mark Appel’s season has been disappointing is an understatement. The 23-year-old struggled mightily in High-A Lancaster’s rotation to the point where he spent a month trying to figure out things in extended spring training.
While Astros general manager Jeff Luhnow has taken the blame for assuming the right-hander would fit the organization's tandem rotations in the low minors, per Fox's Ken Rosenthal, Appel’s overwhelming lack of success against younger hitters this season is very concerning.
However, the Astros didn’t seem as concerned as the rest of us and promoted Appel to Double-A Corpus Christi—a decision that potentially saved the right-hander’s season.
The 23-year-old finally showed the promise that made him the No. 1 overall pick in the 2013 draft (and the No. 8 pick in 2012) after moving up to Corpus Christi, as he pitched to a 3.69 ERA, 1.23 WHIP and 38-13 strikeout-to-walk ratio over 39 innings. Appel’s second-to-last outing easily was the best of his brief career, as he struck out 10 batters over eight scoreless innings, allowing just two hits and one walk.
Appel presumably will return to Double-A to begin his 2015 campaign, and he should finish the year in the major leagues if all goes as planned.
43. Kevin Plawecki, C, New York Mets
Selected with the No. 35 overall pick in the 2012 draft, Plawecki’s ability to make consistent hard contact and use the whole field has helped him move quickly through the Mets’ system.
In addition to batting .309/.365/.460 with 35 extra-base hits and a 48-30 strikeout-to-walk ratio over 101 games between the Double- and Triple-A levels, the 23-year-old backstop made noticeable strides defensively with only five passed balls and a 23 percent caught-stealing rate in 94 games behind the plate.
Plawecki may not be the best catcher in the minor leagues on either side of the ball, but he’s a well-rounded player with sound tools and secondary skills that project at the major league level. His defense requires further refinement and may never be more league average, but his knack for making consistent contact should always help to outweigh some of those specific concerns.
42. Jose Peraza, 2B, Atlanta Braves
After opening eyes last year with a .288 batting average and 64 steals in his full-season debut at Low-A Rome, Peraza, 20, jumped on the big league radar by batting .342/.365/.454 with 97 hits and 35 stolen bases in his first 66 games at High-A Lynchburg.
At the time of his promotion to Double-A, Peraza was riding a 14-game hitting streak, during which he was batting .426/.444/.656, and he also was leading the Carolina League in batting average, stolen bases and hits (97).
Peraza continued to rake in the Southern League, despite serving as one of its younger everyday players, as he batted .335/.363/.422 with 11 extra-base hits and 25 steals in 44 contests.
Between both levels, the right-handed hitter batted .339 with 159 hits and 60 stolen bases in 110 games.
The Atlanta Braves shifted Peraza from shortstop to second base this season in deference to Andrelton Simmons, which could give the organization one of the best double play combinations in baseball for years to come, possibly as early as mid-2015.
The Braves put Peraza on the fast track to the major leagues this season, and it’s easy to see why given the youngster’s tremendous speed, feel for the game and excellent makeup. He has the potential to be a first-division second baseman.
41. Jesse Winker, OF, Cincinnati Reds
One of the more underrated hitters in the minor leagues, Winker, 21, showcased his mature approach and preternatural bat-to-ball skills this season by batting .317/.426/.580 with 28 extra-base hits and a 46-40 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 53 games at High-A Bakersfield. His production fell off after moving up to Double-A Pensacola, but it didn’t detract from his accomplishments in the California League.
Winker features a smooth, compact stroke from the left side of the plate and is already adept at using the entire field. More importantly, Winker possesses plate discipline and pitch recognition well beyond his years, which is reflected through his impressive strikeout (17.5 percent) and walk (14.3 percent) rates over 1,100 minor league plate appearances.
Winker suffered a partially torn tendon in his right wrist in late July that prematurely ended his season, though the injury did not require surgery. He’s expected to begin the 2015 season back at Double-A.
40. Jameson Taillon, RHP, Pittsburgh Pirates
Right-hander Jameson Taillon, 22, underwent successful Tommy John surgery in early April, but it cost him a crucial year of development and will likely delay his arrival in the major leagues until late 2015 at the earliest.
39. Alex Jackson, OF/C, Seattle Mariners
Alex Jackson, the No. 6 overall pick in this year’s draft, suffered a broken bone in his left cheek in late July when he was struck by a fly ball after losing it in the lights. The injury kept the 18-year-old outfielder out of action for exactly a month, but he was able to return to the Rookie-level Arizona League to finish his professional debut.
Overall, Jackson batted .280/.344/.476 with 10 extra-base hits and 16 RBI in 23 games.
38. Tim Anderson, SS, Chicago White Sox
Selected in the first round of the 2013 draft based on the merit of his loud tools, Tim Anderson held his own this season despite an aggressive Opening Day assignment to High-A Winston Salem, where he batted .297/.323/.472 with 31 extra-base hits and 10 stolen bases over 68 games.
Anderson missed roughly seven weeks after fracturing his wrist and, after six rehab games in the Rookie-level Arizona League, was promoted to Double-A Birmingham. His introduction to the Double-A Southern League was a smashing success, highlighted by a .364 batting average with four extra-base hits over his final 10 games of the season.
In general, Anderson made more consistent contact than expected and showed good raw power, though his raw approach and pitch recognition will require considerable refinement moving forward.
The White Sox are notorious for their quick promotions, and Anderson—who will begin the 2015 season back at Double-A, presumably—could take over at shortstop should the White Sox decide to decline Alexei Ramirez's 2016 option.
37. Aaron Blair, RHP, Arizona Diamondbacks
Aaron Blair started the season in the Low-A Midwest League, pitched well in the High-A California League and performed even better after moving up to Double-A Mobile in the Southern League. Between all three stops, the 22-year-old right-hander pitched to a 3.56 ERA, 1.14 WHIP and .218 BAA with 171 strikeouts and 51 walks over 154.1 innings.
Blair is going to surprise folks with his ability to miss bats, as the right-hander’s feel for locating each of his three pitches—especially his changeup—helped him strike out more than a batter per inning in his first full professional season.
The right-hander profiles as a durable No. 3 starter capable of missing some bats, though he doesn’t come with the huge upside like fellow D-Backs right-handers Archie Bradley and Braden Shipley. That being said, there’s a strong chance he will realize his potential and carve out a solid career as a mid-rotation starter as soon as mid-2015.
36. Andrew Heaney, LHP, Miami Marlins
Andrew Heaney opened the season with a dominant showing between the Double- and Triple-A level, resulting in a promotion to the major leagues in early June. However, the 23-year-old left-handed pitcher couldn’t replicate his minor league success against the game’s top hitters, going 0-3 with a 6.53 ERA and five home runs allowed in 20.2 innings over four starts.
The left-hander continued to scuffle after returning to Triple-A, registering a 4.30 ERA and yielding eight more home runs over his final 60.2 innings spanning 11 starts, but still returned to the major leagues as a September call-up.
Heaney has looked sharper since rejoining the Marlins, with four strikeouts and two hits allowed over 4.2 scoreless innings out of the bullpen, and he should compete for a spot in the team’s 2015 Opening Day starting rotation.
35. Jose Berrios, RHP, Minnesota Twins
Jose Berrios opened eyes last season in his full-season debut for Low-A Cedar Rapids, so it wasn’t surprising when the 20-year-old began 2014 with a dominant showing in the pitcher-friendly Florida State League. Specifically, the right-hander posted a 9-3 record with a 1.96 ERA and 109-23 strikeout-to-walk ratio over his first 96.1 innings (16 starts) at High-A Fort Myers.
As expected, Berrios received a second-half promotion to Double-A New Britain, and, as expected, the youngster was challenged as one of the Eastern League’s youngest pitchers. He still managed to post a solid 3.54 ERA and 1.11 WHIP over 40.2 innings, but the right-hander's respective strikeout and walk rates (28-12 strikeout-to-walk ratio) took a hit against older hitters.
The Minnesota Twins confidently sent Berrios to Triple-A Rochester for the final month of the season—despite the fact that he dealt with shoulder discomfort in late July—but he struggled in his only start at the minor leagues' highest level, allowing six runs on seven hits and three walks in three innings.
He may be just 6’1”, 187 pounds, but the right-hander is loaded with arm strength, reportedly hitting 101 mph in his start July 20. For that same reason, there have been and will always be concerns about his long-term durability.
34. Aaron Sanchez, RHP, Toronto Blue Jays
In Sanchez’s first taste of Double- and Triple-A levels this, the 22-year-old right-hander saw his strikeout (7.5 K/9) and walk (5.1 BB/9) rates trend in opposite directions, though he's still managed to hold opposing hitters to a .243 average over 100.1 innings.
Sanchez was rushed up the ladder this year due to the Blue Jays’ struggles in the major leagues and emerged as a major weapon in Toronto’s bullpen following his call-up on July 23, registering an impressive 1.19 ERA, 0.69 WHIP and .136 BAA with 25 strikeouts in 30.1 innings.
Sanchez’s stuff is electric whether or not he’s around the plate, as the right-hander has shown the ability to miss bats even when the command is off.
However, if he’s going to start for the club long term, then he’d benefit from more time in the minors next season to refine his command.
33. Josh Bell, OF, Pittsburgh Pirates
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, continued to make offensive strides in the pitcher-friendly Florida State League, batting .335/.384/.502 with 33 extra-base hits (nine home runs) and an improved 43-25 strikeout-to-walk ratio through 84 games.
Bell’s hot bat carried over to the Eastern League for the final month of the season, as he batted .287/.343/.309 over his final 24 games.
Bell has hit nearly three times as many doubles (64) as home runs (23) as a professional, and it’s only a matter of time until some of those two-baggers start clearing fences. As he continues to add strength and gain experience against quality pitching, it’s easy to envision Bell becoming a middle-of-the-order threat capable of hitting 20-25 home runs at maturity.
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.
32. Kyle Zimmer, RHP, Kansas City Royals
Though injuries delayed Zimmer’s season debut until mid-August, the right-hander was able to work his way up to Triple-A Omaha earlier this month to pitch out of bullpen in the Pacific Coast League playoffs.
Zimmer underwent surgery to remove bone chips in his right elbow after his 2012 professional debut, but appeared healthy throughout 2013 until August when he was shelved with shoulder tightness. The same injury delayed his start to the 2014 season, while a subsequent lat injury suffered while rehabbing cost the right-hander a crucial year of development.
The sky is the limit for Zimmer if he can just stay healthy. Over two-plus years in the minors, his rash of injuries rather than on-field success has unfortunately defined the right-hander’s development. While he still has time on his side, Zimmer’s checkered medical history offers reason to question his overall potential.
However, if all goes as planned with his rehab work, Zimmer should be ready to make up for the lost time in the Arizona Fall League.
31. Henry Owens, LHP, Boston Red Sox
Henry Owens, a 6’6” left-hander, didn’t take a step forward this season with his command this season and lacked consistency from start to start. However, the 22-year-old southpaw was still difficult to barrel—as is usually the case when his secondary pitches are working—as he held opposing hitters to a .208 average while registering 170 strikeouts in 159 innings.
Owens doesn’t have an overpowering arsenal, but his combination of an aggressive approach, a deceptive delivery and feel for changing hitters’ eye levels with three pitches (including a plus-or-better changeup) has made him one of the more proficient strikeout artists in the minor leagues.
Owens still projects as more of a mid-rotation starter than staff ace due to his lack of a dominant pitch and slightly below-average command, but there’s still something to be said for his ability to miss bats during an accelerated rise though the minor leagues.
30. David Dahl, OF, Colorado Rockies
David Dahl, the No. 10 overall pick in the 2012 draft, quickly made up for his lost 2013 season with a strong performance this season at Low-A Asheville, and he’s continued to put up impressive numbers since moving up to High-A Modesto in late July.
Though he played his home games with Asheville in a notoriously hitter-friendly park and is now playing in the hitter-friendly California League, the 20-year-old outfielder’s 63 extra-base hits and 21 stolen bases in 119 games was still plenty impressive. Between both Class-A levels, Dahl batted .299/.335/.492.
Dahl's below-average pitch recognition and selection are a product of his time off and overall inexperience, so don't read too much into his 92-28 strikeout-to-walk ratio this season.
29. Raul Mondesi, SS, Kansas City Royals
Raul Mondesi is one of the top up-the-middle prospects in the minor leagues and has spent the season playing in the High-A Carolina League as an 18-year-old (he turned 19 on July 27). Therefore, the switch-hitter’s rough season at the dish, including a .610 OPS and 122-24 strikeout-to-walk in 110 games, is somewhat understandable.
Though Mondesi did hit seven of his eight total home runs over his final 64 games, the shortstop batted just .187/.229/.378 during that span.
As you might already have inferred, Mondesi won’t be reaching the major leagues anytime soon. Ideally, he’ll be ready to debut with the Royals at some point during his age-20 season.
28. D.J. Peterson, 3B/1B, Seattle Mariners
D.J. Peterson was viewed as the most advanced college hitter—arguably the top overall hitter—in the 2013 draft class due to his potential for plus hit and power tools. He showcased both last summer in his professional debut, which, unfortunately, ended prematurely after an errant pitch fractured his jaw.
With the injury behind him entering 2014, Peterson make quick work of the California League with a .997 OPS, 18 home runs and 73 RBI in his first 65 games at High-A High Desert. The 22-year-old cooled off a bit following a midseason promotion to Double-A Jackson but still batted a very respectable .261/.335/.473 with 13 home runs, eight doubles and 38 RBI in his first taste of the Southern League.
Peterson may not remain at third base long term, but his bat is good enough to support a move to first base. One thing is certain: After hitting 31 home runs and 31 doubles in his first full professional season, the 22-year-old will have everyone’s attention entering 2015.
27. Braden Shipley, RHP, Arizona Diamondbacks
Braden Shipley, the No. 15 overall pick in the 2013 draft, began the season at Low-A South Bend but since has received well-deserved promotions to High-A Visalia and Double-A Mobile.
Between all three stops, the 22-year-old right-hander posted a 3.86 ERA and 127-42 strikeout-to-walk ratio over 126 innings (22 starts).
The 22-year-old right-hander should continue to move up the ladder in a hurry thanks to a mid-90s fastball, a plus-plus changeup that already ranks as one of the best in the minor leagues and a hard curveball that projects as another plus offering at maturity. More importantly, Shipley has advanced command of all three pitches.
Shipley likely will begin 2015 back in Double-A but could receive a call-up with Arizona sometime during the second half of the season.
26. Hunter Harvey, RHP, Baltimore Orioles
Few pitchers in the low minors have been as impressive as Harvey this season, as the 19-year-old has dominated hitters in the South Atlantic League behind advanced command of his 90 to 94 mph fastball and swing-and-miss curveball.
Harvey was shut down in late July after suffering a right elbow strain but didn’t require surgery. At the time of the injury, the right-hander owned a 3.18 ERA, 1.13 WHIP, .209 BAA and 106-33 strikeout-to-walk ratio through 87.2 innings.
Assuming he’s healthy, the right-hander should open the 2015 season at High-A Frederick, with the potential to reach Double-A before the halfway point. Like many of the Orioles’ other top draft picks in recent years, Harvey should be able to move quickly through the minor leagues compared to his peers.
25. Daniel Norris, LHP, Toronto Blue Jays
Daniel Norris, 21, began the season at High-A Dunedin, where he pitched to a 1.22 ERA and 79-16 strikeout-to-walk ratio over 66.1 innings before moving up to Double-A New Hampshire. He scuffled a bit in the Eastern League, posting a 4.54 ERA in 35.2 innings, but continued his bat-missing ways by fanning 49 hitters during that span.
With the Toronto Blue Jays clinging to their dream of a playoff berth, Norris was promoted to Triple-A Buffalo after only eight Double-A starts, hinting at a possible late-season call-up for the talented southpaw. Well, after impressing with a 3.18 ERA and 38-8 strikeout-to-walk ratio over 22.2 innings at the minor’s highest level, Norris had his contract purchased by the Blue Jays when rosters expanded.
Norris made his highly anticipated debut Sept. 5 against the Boston Red Sox, entering the game in the seventh inning to face David Ortiz with two outs and the tying run on second base. Norris has appeared in three more games out of Toronto’s bullpen since then and will make his first major league start on Thursday.
24. Eddie Butler, RHP, Colorado Rockies
Eddie Butler had a forgettable debut in early June, as he gave up six runs over 5.1 innings in a start against the Dodgers. The 23-year-old right-hander showed good stuff in the outing, but he still yielded 10 hits and three walks while tallying just two strikeouts. Following the game, the Rockies placed Butler on the 15-day disabled list with right shoulder inflammation.
Though he didn’t pitch particularly well in the minors after coming off the shelf in mid-July either, the promising right-hander recently returned to the major leagues for his second start and ultimately picked up his first win after allowing one run on five hits over six innings.
Butler posted impressive strikeout numbers in 2012 and 2013, but he suffered a significant regression in that departed this year between the Double- and Triple-A levels. His three plus pitches (fastball/slider/changeup) suggests that Butler will return to his bat-missing ways in the future, but it’s still an interesting trend to follow moving forward.
Butler was poised to spend a majority of the season in the Rockies’ starting rotation before suffering the shoulder injury. He still has the ceiling of a No. 2 or 3 starter at maturity, but he’ll now have to answer questions next season about his durability and ability to miss bats.
23. Austin Hedges, C, San Diego Padres
Austin Hedges struggled to get things started at the plate this season—his first full campaign at the Double-A level—with a .589 OPS and 89-23 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 113 games. Meanwhile, his overall numbers have been weighed down by a rough second half during which he batted .198/.234/.237 with five extra-base hits in 54 games.
On the other side of the ball, Hedges has posted a 38 percent caught-stealing rate this season and committed only six passed balls in 106 games behind the plate. The 21-year-old’s defense could make him an everyday player in the major leagues right now, but that doesn’t mean the Padres are willing to risk his offensive development for an ahead-of-schedule taste of The Show.
22. J.P. Crawford, SS, Philadelphia Phillies
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, reaching Low-A Lakewood as a 19-year-old. This year, Crawford emerged as one of the game’s better shortstop prospects in his first full professional campaign, finishing the year strong when many of his peers from the 2013 draft were wearing down.
Crawford began the season at Low-A Lakewood and received a well-deserved midseason promotion—around the time he appeared in the SiriusXM All-Star Futures Game—to High-A Clearwater after batting .295/.398/.405 with 19 extra-base hits and as many strikeouts as walks (37).
The left-handed hitter’s average fell by just .020 points over 63 games in the pitcher-friendly Florida State League, and he maintained his strong plate discipline and actually showed more over-the-fence power than expected with eight home runs.
21. Alex Meyer, RHP, Minnesota Twins
Alex Meyer, 24, has nothing left to prove in the minor leagues. The 6'9" right-hander held opposing hitters to a paltry .241 batting average while posting a 10.6 K/9 rate in 130.1 innings. His command still needs some refinement, hence the career-worst 4.4 BB/9 rate, and he'll get hit around when working up in the zone with his fastball, but the stuff is ready for the highest level.
Meyer was a strong candidate to finish the season in the major leagues before leaving his final Triple-A start (on Aug. 31) with shoulder stiffness, though an MRI revealed just inflammation and no structural damage.
The next step in Meyer’s development is a lengthy audition in the major leagues, which should occur in early 2015 if he’s healthy. There’s a realistic chance he’ll always walk too many guys, but there’s no questioning Meyer’s ability to miss bats as an impact starter.
20. Carlos Rodon, LHP, Chicago White Sox
The White Sox promoted Carlos Rodon, the No. 3 overall pick in this year’s draft, to Triple-A Charlotte in mid-August, less than a month after he made his professional debut in the Rookie-level Arizona League.
The 21-year-old impressed at the minor leagues' highest level, posting a 3.00 ERA with 18 strikeouts over 12 innings (three starts). Over his final two starts, the southpaw fanned 15 batters in nine innings.
Rodon has everything one looks for in a potential front-end starter with a durable frame, three offerings with plus-or-better potential and the type of competitive mound presence that can’t be taught. Rodon should compete during spring training for a spot in the South Siders’ Opening Day rotation and, as long as he stays healthy, it shouldn’t take him long to emerge as one of baseball’s premier left-handed pitchers.
19. Blake Swihart, C, Boston Red Sox
Taking over honors as the top catcher in the minor leagues, Blake Swihart has quietly put together an outstanding season on both sides of the ball between the Double-A and Triple-A levels.
Swihart, 22, posted an .810 OPS with 43 extra-base hits through 100 games, and the switch-hitter also has fared well from both sides of the plate, with a .780 OPS as a left-handed batter and .861 OPS as a righty.
Defensively, Swihart has thrown out 46 percent (37-of-68) of all base stealers this season and did not allow a passed ball in 97 games behind the plate.
18. Tyler Glasnow, RHP, Pittsburgh Pirates
Tyler Glasnow opened eyes last year in his full-season debut at Low-A West Virginia, as the 6’7” right-hander led the South Atlantic League in ERA (2.18), opponents' batting average (.142), strikeouts (164) and K/9 (13.26).
Well, the 21-year-old's follow-up campaign at High-A Bradenton was eerily similar, as he paced the Florida State league in ERA (1.74), WHIP (1.05) and opponents’ batting average (.174), while ranking second in strikeouts (157) and strikeouts per nine innings (11.4 K/9).
Glasnow was especially dominant during the second half of the season, with a 9-2 record, 1.65 ERA, 0.97 WHIP and 109 strikeouts over 81.2 innings (14 starts). Meanwhile, he issued just 29 walks—one more than he allowed in 42.2 innings during the first half—while holding opposing hitters to a .177 average.
17. Jorge Soler, OF, Chicago Cubs
Soler was sidelined with a hamstring injury for a majority of the first half, but the 22-year-old Cuban quickly made up for lost time after returning, batting .340/.432/.700 with 15 home runs, 23 doubles and 57 RBI over 62 games across three levels. More importantly, his overwhelming success in the minor leagues forced the Cubs to promote him late last month.
Soler has been a force since his call-up, showing all five tools and an impressive overall feel for the game while batting .329 (24-for-73) with five home runs, seven doubles and 18 RBI through his first 20 games.
If he comes close to reaching his offensive ceiling, Soler should offer All-Star-caliber production in his prime seasons, batting .270-plus with roughly 25 home runs and double-digit stolen bases from the heart of the Cubs’ lineup.
16. Miguel Sano, 3B, Minnesota Twins
Miguel Sano’s highly anticipated season was over before it began, as he was forced to undergo Tommy John surgery early in the spring and sit out his age-21 campaign. Though it was a lost year of development for Sano, the injury shouldn't affect his power and or impact his overall ceiling as a potential All-Star third baseman.
Sano has been on a throwing program and swinging a bat since mid-August, and there’s a possibility he could return to action during the second half of the Dominican Winter League.
15. Robert Stephenson, RHP, Cincinnati Reds
Robert Stephenson held his own this season at Double-A Pensacola with a 4.74 ERA and 140 strikeouts in 136.2 innings. However, the 21-year-old right-hander’s inconsistent command has led to an elevated walk rate (4.9 BB/9), while his tendency to pitch up in the zone with his mid-to-upper-90s fastball has allowed hitters to take him deep 18 times (1.2 HR/9).
That said, Stephenson was still young for the level, so the fact that he held opposing hitters to a .224 batting average and has missed more than one bat per inning speaks volumes about his overall potential. There’s no denying that Stephenson’s pure stuff gives him impact potential, but don’t expect the Reds to rush him up the ladder more than they have already.
Stephenson’s athleticism and arm strength suggest front-of-the-rotation potential, but he’ll need to improve his command and refine his changeup to remain a starter long term. The good news is the 21-year-old is still young and will be given ample time to address those issues.
14. Joc Pederson, OF, Los Angeles Dodgers
Pederson received his first trip to the major leagues after recently being named MVP of the Triple-A Pacific Coast League. This season, the 22-year-old outfielder led the PCL in home runs (33), OPS (1.017), on-base percentage (.435), runs scored (106), walks (100) and total bases (259). He also became the first Pacific Coast League player to hit 30 home runs and steal 30 bases in a season since Frank Demaree in 1934.
Pederson is an impressive athlete with quiet strength, showcasing five average-or-better tools and good secondary skills. He projects to be a slightly above-average hitter at the highest level, with a mature approach and line-drive-oriented swing, and he already demonstrates a feel for working counts and getting on base.
Pederson saw regular playing time (at least compared to other September call-ups) after his promotion, but the combination of his own struggles and Yasiel Puig’s recent success has forced him to a bench role over the last week-plus.
However, it’d be shocking if the 22-year-old isn’t in the mix for a starting spot, likely center field, heading into 2015.
13. Dylan Bundy, RHP, Baltimore Orioles
Dylan Bundy worked his way back from the Tommy John surgery he underwent last spring and has made six starts at High-A Frederick after a series of dominant starts with Class A Short Season Aberdeen.
The 21-year-old right-hander’s velocity is yet to return to pre-surgery form, with Pat Stoetzer of the Carroll County Times (via The Baltimore Sun) reporting he topped out at only 89 mph while at Frederick, and his 15-to-13 strikeout-to-walk ratio over 26.1 innings at the level indicates he was still working to regain his overall feel for pitching.
There was a slight chance Bundy would be ready to rejoin the Orioles in early September and pick up where he left off in 2012, but his recovery was unfortunately derailed by a lat strain suffered in early August, per MASN Sports.
12. Julio Urias, LHP, Los Angeles Dodgers
Julio Urias emerged as one of the top pitching prospects in the minor leagues this season, as the immensely talented left-handed pitcher dominated older hitters in the offense-heavy California League.
After celebrating his 18th birthday on Aug. 12, Urias capped his outstanding campaign by posting a 0.44 ERA with 31 strikeouts over his final 20.1 innings (five starts). On the season, the southpaw pitched to a 2.36 ERA and 1.11 WHIP with 109 strikeouts in 87.2 innings. He also held opposing hitters to a dismal .194/.292/.290 batting line.
Urias isn’t your average pitching prospect, so don’t expect the Dodgers to treat him as such. The 18-year-old is a safe bet to reach the major leagues as a teenager, with the only question being whether it happens when he’s 18 (2015) or 19 (2016).
11. Archie Bradley, RHP, Arizona Diamondbacks
Archie Bradley spent a majority of the season on the disabled list due to a mild flexor strain in his right elbow, but the 22-year-old was given a clean bill of health in late June and returned to Double-A Mobile, where he pitched to a 4.12 ERA with 46 strikeouts and 36 walks over 54.2 innings.
Bradley logged only 83 innings this season due to his time spent on the disabled list, so his September call-up snub wasn’t related to any concerns about his workload. Rather, Bradley’s performance this season has made it clear his command, particularly his fastball command, is still a work in progress. The right-hander’s overall development didn’t progress as expected, but it didn’t change his ceiling of a No. 2 starter at maturity.
10. Noah Syndergaard, RHP, New York Mets
Syndergaard’s inflated 4.60 ERA and .293 opponents’ batting average (.378 BABIP) were products of pitching in the hitter-friendly Pacific Coast League, as he otherwise posted a 3.70 FIP and kept the ball in the park (0.74 HR/9). Overall, the 22-year-old held his own against older hitters while maintaining strong strikeout (9.81 K/9) and walk (2.91 BB/9) rates.
The New York Mets announced before the rosters expanded that Syndergaard was unlikely to reach the major leagues before 2015, which was unpopular but the right decision. Syndergaard’s command needs further refinement, and he’ll likely begin 2015 back in Triple-A, but the stuff and durability still suggest impact starter once fully developed.
9. Jon Gray, RHP, Colorado Rockies
Gray’s arm strength is among the best in the minor leagues, but he dialed it back a bit this season at Double-A in favor of command. While some of the results weren’t spectacular, such as his 3.91 ERA, his overall feel for locating his fastball, slider and changeup were better than expected in his first full season and produced a .237 opponents’ batting average and 113-41 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 124.1 innings.
Gray was shut down on Sept. 2 due to right shoulder fatigue, per The Denver Post, though it was more of a precaution than a response to a potentially serious injury.
The Rockies had Gray working on different things this season, such as his fastball command and ability to expand the zone with his secondary pitches, so the numbers weren’t as impressive as expected. Regardless, his season-long success in Double-A is very encouraging and has him poised to make a midseason debut in 2015.
8. Lucas Giolito, RHP, Washington Nationals
In his first full season back from Tommy John surgery, Giolito led the South Atlantic League (among pitchers with 90 innings) in ERA (2.20), strikeout percentage (28.5 percent) and opponents’ batting average (.196).
Overall, the 20-year-old right-hander—named as the top pitching prospect and top overall prospect in the South Atlantic League—held opposing hitters to a .197/.256/.298 batting line.
For those who missed it earlier in the season, I wrote up Giolito as the best pitching prospect seen this year and one of the best I’ve ever scouted.
7. Joey Gallo, 3B, Texas Rangers
Joey Gallo led all minor league hitters in 2013 with 40 home runs and then broke that mark this season with 42, falling one shy of Kris Bryant’s MiLB lead. The 20-year-old’s impressive campaign began at High-A Myrtle Beach, where his refined approach and shorter swing produced a .323/.463/.735 batting line with 21 home runs and respective strikeout and walk rates of 26.0 and 20.7 percent over 246 plate appearances (58 games).
The slugger hit another 21 dingers in 68 games following a midseason promotion to Double-A Frisco, but his approach was exploited by Texas League pitchers and resulted in a .232/.334/.524 batting line with respective strikeout and walk rates of 39.5 and 12.4 percent over 291 plate appearances.
Despite his struggles in the Texas League, Gallo took a huge step forward overall, as he tightened his approach and trimmed his strikeout rate without sacrificing any power.
6. Corey Seager, SS, Los Angeles Dodgers
Corey Seager struggled at High-A Rancho Cucamonga during the final month of the 2013 regular season, batting just .160 with 31 strikeouts in 27 games following a promotion from Low-A Great Lakes.
However, that wasn’t the case in Seager’s second tour of the California League, as the 20-year-old mastered the level with a robust .352/.411/.633 batting line, 34 doubles, 18 home runs and 70 RBI in 80 games.
The hitter-friendly parks of the Cal tend to inflate hitters’ numbers, so it was great to see Seager continue his torrid production after moving up to Double-A Chattanooga. In his first taste of the Southern League, the 6’4”, 215-pound shortstop batted .345/.381/.534 with two home runs, 16 doubles and 27 RBI in 37 contests.
Overall, Seager amassed 75 extra-base hits and led all minor leaguers with 50 doubles. On top of that, he actually fared equally well against same-side pitchers as he did righties this season, posting a 1.065 OPS and 24 extra-base hits in 126 plate appearances against southpaws compared to a .984 OPS with 51 extra-base hits in 400 plate appearances.
Regardless of whether he sticks at shortstop or moves to third base, Seager’s bat will have him hitting in the middle of a big league lineup sooner rather than later. And the fact that his production translated at the Double-A level, outside the hitter-friendly California League, during the second half only further confirmed his status as a top-tier prospect.
5. Addison Russell, SS, Chicago Cubs
Addison Russell, 20, missed most of the first half with a hamstring injury prior to being dealt to the Cubs in early July. However, the shortstop seemingly benefited from the change of scenery, batting .294/.332/.536 with 12 home runs, 11 doubles and 36 RBI in 50 games at Double-A Tennessee. The only thing Russell didn’t do this season was steal bases, though that should have been expected after he missed most of the first half with a hamstring injury.
Russell has the makings of an All-Star-caliber shortstop, but there’s still a sizeable gap between his present ability and overall potential. He should be ready to make an impact in major leagues at some point next season, though the Cubs first will have to determine where he’ll play given their impressive depth up the middle.
4. Francisco Lindor, SS, Cleveland Indians
Francisco Lindor returned to Double-A Akron to begin the season and held his own as one of the Eastern League’s youngest players by batting .278/.352/.389 with 22 extra-base hits and 25 steals in 88 games.
The Cleveland Indians moved him up to Triple-A Columbus in July, suggesting that the 20-year-old defensive wizard might get his first taste of the major leagues in September. However, even after dealing Asdrubal Cabrera at the trade deadline, the organization decided not to call up Lindor for the season’s final month. Though he batted a very respectable .273 over 38 games at minor’s highest level, the switch-hitter’s on-base percentage dropped to .307 and he stole just three bases in 10 attempts.
After swiping 25 bags in 32 attempts in 2013 (78.1 percent), Lindor also took a step back on the basepaths this season with a 63.6 percent success rate (28-for-44) between the two levels.
Even if Lindor’s bat doesn’t develop as hoped, he still has the potential to enjoy a long, successful career in the major leagues based on his defensive prowess, superb makeup and ability to control the speed of the game. However, even modest offensive production could make Lindor a perennial All-Star.
3. Kris Bryant, 3B, Chicago Cubs
Kris Bryant has done nothing but blow past all expectations since the Chicago Cubs selected him second overall in the 2013 draft. The 22-year-old third baseman continued his surge toward the major leagues this year—in his first full professional season—by putting up monster numbers between the Double- and Triple-A levels.
Specifically, the 6’5”, right-handed hitting slugger led the minor leagues (qualified hitters only) in home runs (43), slugging percentage (.661), OPS (1.098) and wOBA (.472). He also ranked second in runs (118) and fourth in RBI (110), and he batted .325 with a .438 on-base percentage in 594 plate appearances.
Though he was snubbed of a September call-up, Bryant won’t need much time in the minor leagues next season and should join the Cubs once service time is no longer an issue.
2. Carlos Correa, SS, Houston Astros
One of the younger everyday players at the High-A level, Correa, 19, continued to blow past all reasonable expectations this season—albeit in the hitter-friendly California League—with a .325/.416/.510 batting line, 32 extra-base hits, 20 stolen bases and a 45-36 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 62 games.
Correa seemed bound for a promotion to Double-A before suffering a season-ending fibula injury in late June while sliding into third base. He underwent surgery shortly thereafter and has already progressed to running and taking ground balls, and general manager Jeff Luhnow believes Correa will be ready by February for spring training.
Correa is a physically blessed player with present plus makeup and the potential for five average-or-better tools at maturity, and he’s still on the fast track to the major leagues despite the ankle injury. In general, the 19-year-old has one of the highest ceilings in the minors, with the potential to be a perennial All-Star and possibly even an MVP candidate in his prime.
1. Byron Buxton, OF, Minnesota Twins
Byron Buxton is still viewed as the sport’s top prospect despite missing the first half of the season with a wrist injury, and then most of the second half after suffering a concussion in a terrifying outfield collision. There’s simply no other player who can match the 20-year-old center fielder’s combination of elite athleticism, legitimate five-tool potential and advanced secondary skills.
Buxton originally was supposed to begin the year at Double-A New Britain, in which case he would have been on schedule to debut with the Twins in August or September. However, given the amount of developmental time he’s missed this season, it’d be surprising to see him in the major leagues before mid-2015. That being said, a strong performance in this year’s Arizona Fall League could help get his promising career back on track headed into next season.
Buxton has the ceiling of an MVP-caliber player in his prime, with five potentially plus tools and a feel for making in-game adjustments. However, after losing nearly all of 2014 due to injuries, the 20-year-old now faces at least some pressure to make up for the lost time.