7 Top MLB Prospects Who Won't Live Up to Sky-High 2015 Expectations
It’s hard to not get excited when projecting the future impacts of baseball’s top prospects. Unfortunately, with that excitement usually come unreasonable expectations, which, when not met, can cause younger players to be unfairly perceived as “disappointments.”
These players won’t necessarily have bad years, but it might be difficult for them to live up to the high expectations ascribed to them at the beginning of the season. Of course, expectations for prospects come in all different shapes and sizes, as one player might be expected to make an impact in the major leagues, while another is expected to prove he belongs at a certain level in the minors.
With all that said, here are seven top MLB prospects who won’t live up to sky-high expectations in 2015.
Roberto Baldoquin, SS/2B, Los Angeles Angels
Roberto Baldoquin is one of the more intriguing Cuban signings from the past year, as there was little known about the 21-year-old before the Angels inked him with a then-record $8 million bonus.
The organization chose to assign Baldoquin to High-A Inland Empire rather than Double-A Arkansas to begin his stateside career, as the California League offers a much more flattering environment for hitters. Unfortunately, Baldoquin has struggled in the early going, with a .154/.233/.205 batting line, one extra-base hit and a 13/2 strikeout-to-walk ratio through 11 games.
Baldoquin has the potential to be an average middle infielder in the major leagues, but from what I’ve seen, he appears to be more of a sum-of-all-parts guy who currently needs to add strength, cut down the length of his swing and develop a consistent approach.
Though he may very well put up great numbers this season and gain experience at the Double-A level, Baldoquin is more of a project than his Cuban predecessors and could take longer than expected to develop in the minors.
Byron Buxton, OF, Minnesota Twins
Byron Buxton entered the season as our top-ranked prospect even though he spent most of 2014 on the disabled list and played in just 31 games, one of which came at the Double-A level.
Specifically, the 21-year-old suffered a wrist injury that limited him to only five games before the Fourth of July, and then he had his campaign cut short after an outfield collision in his first Double-A game resulted in a concussion.
Buxton hasn’t gotten off to the red-hot start back in Double-A that many hoped he would, though that probably should have been expected after he missed most of what was supposed to be a crucial developmental year.
The toolsy center fielder is batting .180/.241/.300 with 14 strikeouts through 12 games. While he’s still arguably the game’s top prospect, it’s also important to remember that Buxton is, in fact, human.
Jon Gray, RHP, Colorado Rockies
The Rockies had Jon Gray working on several things in 2014, such as optimizing his delivery, improving his fastball command and expanding the zone with his secondary pitches more consistently. As a result, the 23-year-old right-hander’s numbers were good but not overly impressive.
After watching him during spring training, Gray seems more likely to be an effective No. 3 starter as opposed to the ace people expected as the No. 2 overall pick in the 2013 draft.
He’s a strike-thrower who can miss bats with three pitches, but Gray’s velocity has been down as a professional, and he has yet to learn how to consistently put away hitters. He’s still a stud and one of the better right-handers in the minor leagues, but it might be best to temper expectations.
Frankie Montas, RHP, Chicago White Sox
A pair of knee injuries limited Frank Montas to only 11 starts in 2014, but the 22-year-old right-hander still made a strong impression during his time with High-A Winston-Salem and Double-A Birmingham. He then opened even more eyes in the Arizona Fall League.
Montas features a fastball in the high 90s that eats up opposing hitters and a legitimate swing-and-miss slider, but his delivery involves considerable effort and impedes his ability to locate the pitch. Furthermore, I worry whether he can dominate hitters at the top of the zone at higher minor levels as he did last season.
The right-hander has a potentially long road ahead of him as a starter and therefore may be best suited for a bullpen role in the major leagues.
Brandon Finnegan, LHP, Kansas City Royals
Brandon Finnegan made history last summer by becoming the only pitcher to appear in both the College World Series and World Series in the same year.
Selected by the Royals in the first round of the 2014 draft, Finnegan, 22, was lights-out following his call-up in September and made national headlines with his gutsy performance in the American League Wild Card Game. However, the organization decided to continue developing him as a starter this season and assigned him to Double-A Northwest Arkansas.
Finnegan projects as a quality mid-rotation guy at maturity, but his stuff isn’t as explosive as a starter compared to coming out of the bullpen. On top of that, his fringy fastball command has the potential to be exposed—as was the case late in the postseason—in either role over a full season in the big leagues, which was why the Royals’ choice to send him to the minors made sense on multiple levels.
That being said, the left-hander probably is more likely to help the Royals this season as a reliever, though I wouldn’t rule out him serving as a swingman during the second half.
Miguel Sano, 3B, Minnesota Twins
Miguel Sano missed the entire 2014 season after undergoing Tommy John surgery, but before that he was one of baseball’s fastest-rising prospects and known for his prodigious raw power.
While he’s still viewed as one of the minors' premier sluggers, Sano, like teammate Byron Buxton, is back at the Double-A level this season and looking to make up for the lost time.
After spending a full season on the shelf, it isn’t surprising that Sano, 21, is batting .175 through his first 50 plate appearances. And given his high strikeout rate in previous years, it’s possible that he will struggle in that department throughout the season. However, it’s good to see that Sano has already clubbed a pair of home runs to go along with nine walks and a .340 on-base percentage in 12 games.
Gabby Guerrero, OF, Seattle Mariners
Gabby Guerrero, the nephew of Vladimir Guerrero, took the California League by storm last season and set career highs in home runs (18), doubles (28), RBI (96) and stolen bases (18), all the while batting .307/.347/.467 in 131 games.
But even though he thrived in the hitter-friendly league, Guerrero’s respective strikeout and walk rates of 22.6 and 5.9 percent suggested he might struggle at the Double-A level in 2015.
Unfortunately, that’s been the case for the 21-year-old in the early going, as he’s batting just .209/.244/.349 with 15 strikeouts through 45 plate appearances. The 6’3” right-handed hitter possesses premium bat speed and plus raw power, but he’s still working to develop an approach and adjust to quality pitching.
Specifically, Guerrero’s swing can play long, which prevents him from catching up to velocity and makes him vulnerable to soft stuff away. He’s still young, obviously, and has time on his side, but Double-A pitching could cause problems for Guerrero in 2015.