5 Most Exciting MLB Prospects Who Will Follow Bryant, Russell, Rodon
It was a good weekend for a banner trio of top-tier baseball prospects, as Kris Bryant knocked his first home run, Chicago Cubs teammate Addison Russell pushed his hitting streak to 12 games and Carlos Rodon of the Chicago White Sox won his first-ever start in the big leagues.
As highly regarded and exciting as those three youngsters are—especially for folks in Chicago—there's plenty more where that came from.
While scores of other minor leaguers are important to their teams, all top prospects are not created equal. Some stand out for their reputation and potential to produce eye-popping numbers and flashy highlights.
Here's a rundown of a handful of elite prospects who still are in the minors but are going to A) debut in the near future this year, and B) immediately become exciting, must-watch talents when they do—just like Bryant, Russell and Rodon.
For clarification, the above criteria regarding the "near future" uses the All-Star break as the cutoff. So although folks continue to anxiously await, among others, Byron Buxton of the Minnesota Twins and Lucas Giolito of the Washington Nationals, they aren't here because their respective development paths aren't likely to put them in the majors in the first half of 2015, let alone by season's end.
Noah Syndergaard, RHP, New York Mets
Let's begin with a youngster who not only is arguably the No. 1 pitching prospect in baseball, but who also is set to make his debut this week.
That's right, the New York Mets placed Dillon Gee on the disabled list with a groin strain and already have announced that Noah Syndergaard will be promoted to make his first start Tuesday against the Chicago Cubs, according to Michael Radano of MLB.com.
With Syndergaard, Bryant and Russell all participating in one game, you know what you should be doing this Tuesday.
The 22-year-old right-hander has just about everything going for him, from electric stuff to a pitcher's frame (6'6", 240 lbs) to a hot start at Triple-A (1.82 ERA, 0.94 WHIP, 10.3 K/9) to a hurler-friendly home park in Citi Field to a buzz-worthy nickname (Thor).
Oh, and did we mention Syndergaard can hit, too?
But don't just take our word for it. Here's prospect maven Jim Callis of MLB.com on Syndergaard: "He has more upside than any pitcher in the Mets' rotation except for Matt Harvey, and he's not too far behind Harvey and more advanced at the same stage of their careers."
Really, what more is there to say? You're better off just watching for yourself Tuesday.
Francisco Lindor, SS, Cleveland Indians
Admittedly, Francisco Lindor lacks the offensive profile that most fans might prefer from any prospect on a most-exciting list.
But the 21-year-old, who went eighth overall in 2011, does have some skills with the stick from both sides, an idea at the plate (.354 OBP in minors) and enough speed to do some digging on the bases.
Lindor is here, however, for one undeniable reason: his do-it-all defense at a premium, up-the-middle shortstop position, which will provide a huge boost for the defensively challenged Cleveland Indians.
Need a diving stop? How about a well-timed double play? Or maybe a little on-field leadership? Lindor brings all of the above, thanks to his athleticism, quickness, hand-eye coordination and game awareness.
Here's the take on Lindor from Baseball America: "He has all the tools to be an above-average shortstop, with smooth hands and a strong arm. He has a knack for anticipation and the first-step quickness to always be in the right place at the right time. The team has long been enamored of his work ethic and leadership qualities."
While defense isn't necessarily everybody's favorite element of baseball, it clearly has become a more and more valuable aspect of the game in recent years. And who doesn't love to watch a highlight with a little flair for the defensive dramatics?
The guess here is that Lindor debuts in mid-June to prevent him from qualifying as a Super Two player. But given how bad the Indians have been so far, especially on D and at short with Jose Ramirez (.444 OPS), they may need to get Lindor up sooner.
Jose Peraza, 2B, Atlanta Braves
Similar to Lindor, Jose Peraza is being highlighted here for something other than his bat.
Having just turned 21 years old, Peraza has fewer than 30 games at Triple-A, but he has shown his contact-heavy approach at the plate can get the job done in the high minors. To wit, he is hitting .296 and striking out only 8.5 percent of the time.
"He should be a 65 or 70 defender and half of a historically great middle-infield tandem [along with shortstop Andrelton Simmons] when he gets settled in the majors," writes Keith Law of ESPN, who ranked Peraza the 24th-best prospect. "At the plate, [Peraza] has a very compact, direct swing that produces line-drive contact without power. He's a 70 runner, albeit from the right side, enough to have high impact on the bases."
The dynamite defense and ability to barrel the ball will make Peraza fun to watch, but the skill that is going to make him downright entertaining is his speed. Between beating out infield hits, turning singles into doubles and doubles into triples and swiping plenty of bases, Peraza is going to bring a fun factor that the Atlanta Braves lineup currently is lacking.
Look for Peraza to have broken into the bigs by the end of June, but with Jace Peterson and Alberto Callaspo as mere placeholders, perhaps the end of May is more realistic, as long as Peraza keeps proving he's not at all overmatched.
Corey Seager, 3B/SS, Los Angeles Dodgers
With veterans Jimmy Rollins and Juan Uribe at shortstop and third base, respectively, there doesn't seem to be an easy opening in the Dodgers infield at the moment for Corey Seager to make his debut between now and the All-Star break. He's trying his darnedest to wedge his way in, anyway.
The just-turned-21 youngster was promoted to Triple-A at the outset of May after tearing through Double-A by hitting .375/.407/.675 over 20 games. That's after triple-slashing .345/.381/.534 in 38 games there last year. He hasn't done much at Oklahoma City yet (.233/.324/.367), but it's only been eight games.
The Dodgers also have Seager, who had played all but one game off shortstop as a pro entering 2015, getting some action at third base. He already has started at the hot corner five times between Double-A and Triple-A.
Why? Well, the expectation is that the 6'4" Seager ultimately will have to move off shortstop because of his size, which makes third base the likely destination. But for now, at least, the Dodgers have other plans.
"The idea is at some point, whether it’s this year or next year, to the extent that we have an injury and [Seager is] our best option if he’s only played shortstop, that obviously limits him to an injury happening at that one position," Dodgers president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman said, per Bill Plunkett of the Orange County Register. "Giving him reps at another position only helps him and helps us."
In other words, Seager has put himself in position to be the go-to guy at a pair of positions for the Dodgers.
Carlos Correa, SS, Houston Astros
When the season began, it seemed unlikely that Carlos Correa would be up in the first half of 2015—or at any point, really. A lot has happened recently to change that.
The combination of shortstop Jed Lowrie's torn thumb ligament—an injury that will keep him out until after the Midsummer Classic, per Jose de Jesus Ortiz of the Houston Chronicle—and white-hot starts from both the Houston Astros (20-11) and Correa himself make this look like a no-brainer to happen within a few weeks.
In fact, the 20-year-old, who was the No. 1 overall selection in the 2012 draft, is hitting .389/.465/.726 with 15 doubles, seven homers, 32 RBI and 15 stolen bases at Corpus Christi. He's leading the Double-A Texas League in just about every offensive category—all while playing well at shortstop, with just one error.
No wonder Astros GM Jeff Luhnow said recently that Correa is bound for the next level soon. "I do think Carlos is ready to move up and get challenged a little more," he told The Matt Thomas Show on Sports790.com. "He probably will move to Triple-A in the next week or two."
And if Correa is up for that challenge and the Astros continue to play well while having a need at short, a promotion to the majors might not be far behind.
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