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2016 MLB thread. Baseball is upon us! Royals are the champs - Page 658

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Thread Starter 
Top 100 Prospects (#1-#50).
Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
Welcome to ESPN Insider's 2014 ranking of the top 100 prospects in baseball.

This is my seventh such ranking for Insider, with a lot of movement within the list from last year's but many of the same names still present. Six of last year's top 10 players are still on the list, and only 13 of last year's top 50 lost their eligibility for 2014. The list is heavy on position players up the middle, including shortstops near the top of the list and many potential everyday catchers further down. First base is extremely weak, and the pitching talent in the minors is still skewed heavily toward right-handed arms.

The Guidelines
Law's prospect rankings
Jan. 28: Farm system rankings
HOU No. 1 | MIN close | Luhnow
Jan. 29: Top 100 prospects
No. 1-50 | 51-100 | Law chat Jan. 30: AL East top 10s | ALC | ALW
Jan. 31: NL East top 10s | NLC | NLW
• The rankings are limited to players who still have rookie eligibility; that means they have yet to exceed 130 at-bats or 50 innings pitched in the majors and have not yet spent 45 days on the active roster of a major league club, excluding call-ups during the roster expansion period after Sept. 1. That means St. Louis Cardinals right-hander Carlos Martinez is ineligible, based on his days on the 25-man roster.

• Only players who have signed professional contracts are eligible.

• I do not consider players with professional experience in Japan or Korea "prospects" for the purposes of this exercise, which means no Masahiro Tanaka this year (among others). I've also excluded Chicago White Sox first baseman Jose Abreu, as he's already 27 years old, too old for a list that by design is comprised of players who are almost all 22 and under.

• When ranking players, I consider scouting reports on players -- usually my own, supplementing with conversations with other scouts and front-office executives as needed -- as well as performance, adjusted for age and context. I've made one adjustment in my ranking philosophy in recent years, favoring higher-upside prospects over lower-ceiling prospects who are closer to the majors. This better reflects how these players are valued now by front offices and scouting departments, and gives me a chance to deliver more information on prospects whose names or scouting reports might be new to you.

• I use the 20-80 grading scale in these comments to avoid saying "average" and "above average" thousands of times across the 100 player comments. On that scale, a grade of 50 equals major league average, 55 is above average, 60 is plus, 45 is fringy or below average and so on. Giancarlo Stanton has 80 raw power. David Ortiz has 20 speed. Carlos Gomez is an 80 defender. An average fastball for a right-hander is 90-92 mph, with 1-2 mph off for a lefty.

• I've included last year's rank for players who appeared in the top 100 in 2013. An "ineligible" player was still an amateur at this time last January, whereas an "unranked" player was eligible but didn't make the cut. I've also tagged players who were on last year's sleepers list or list of 10 players who just missed the cut.

Top 100 index | No. 1-50 | No. 51-100

1Byron Buxton, CF
AGE: 20DOB: 12/18/93B/T: R/RHT: 6-2WT: 189
AVG: .334OBP: .424OPS: .944HR: 12SB: 55

The best player available in the 2012 amateur draft turned out to be even better than expected in his first full year of pro ball, showing off four plus tools right away with a solid approach befitting his status as an older high school senior last spring.

Buxton is an outstanding athlete, like a 20-year-old Eric Davis with a grade-70 arm in center, among the fastest runners you will ever see on a baseball field and with the potential to grow into power in time. He's always had very quick wrists, but the Twins have done a great job of smoothing out Buxton's swing; he's more balanced through contact and already has more power because he keeps his back foot in contact with the ground so he gets more loft in his swing.

Buxton's instincts in the field were evident in high school, but he's proven to be a more advanced hitter than anyone anticipated, given his relatively advanced age for a high school draftee (more than 18 1/2 years old on draft day) and experience playing against mediocre prep competition in rural Georgia. He's comfortable running deep counts and recognizes balls and strikes well already, although his recognition of off-speed stuff lags a little behind that. This combination of quick-twitch actions with size and feel for the game is extremely unusual, something we see only once a decade or so.

Buxton could be the next 20-homer/50-stolen base player, with high averages and OBPs and great defense in center, which would make him a perennial MVP candidate for the Twins for years.

Top level: High Class A (Ft. Myers) | 2013 rank: 22
2Xander Bogaerts, SS
AGE: 21DOB: 10/1/92B/T: R/RHT: 6-3WT: 185
AVG: .297OBP: .388OPS: .865HR: 15SB: 7

For all of Bogaerts' tools -- and he has many -- it was his patient approach at the plate that stood out in the Aruban's brief major league stint in 2013. Bogaerts has explosive potential as a hitter, as the ball comes off his bat exceptionally well, and the fact he sees the ball so well and makes good decisions as a hitter bodes well for his ability to adjust to major league pitching if he's handed an everyday job in 2014.

He has quick and very strong hands at the plate, with moderate hip rotation that still projects to plus power because of the speed and force of his swing. He's a natural shortstop, with soft hands and very good actions as well as plenty of arm for the left side of the infield. Although his frame could allow him to get too big for the position, he's maintained his conditioning well enough to stay at short for the near future, and the possibility of a 25- to 30-homer bat with strong on-base skills at that position gives Boston strong incentive to leave him there.

He could be Troy Tulowitzki with a little less arm, and that's an MVP-caliber player.

Top level: Majors (Boston) | 2013 rank: 5
3Addison Russell, SS
AGE: 20DOB: 1/23/94B/T: R/RHT: 6-0WT: 195
AVG: .269OBP: .369OPS: .865HR: 17SB: 21

One of the best pure hitters in the minors, Russell is an incredibly gifted player who has a mature approach at the plate and some of the softest hands you'll ever see in the field.

Once a muscled-up third baseman, Russell dropped more than 20 pounds before his senior year of high school because he wanted to prove to scouts he could stay at shortstop, a decision that has worked out in every respect and also reflects his work ethic and humility as a ballplayer.

He has a simple, fluid right-handed swing with some loft through his finish to generate line drives; his bat speed is so good and the contact he makes is so hard that I still see more power in the future for him, 15-20 homers a year, if not more. In the field, he has the hands to be an elite shortstop and his actions are fine, with only his feet lagging slightly because he doesn't have the first-step quickness of traditional shortstops. He has plenty of arm for short or third and has shown he can take instruction well enough that no one is seriously talking about him moving to another position.

He had a slow start for high Class A Stockton in 2013, but from June 1 until his promotion to Triple-A, he hit .319/.421/.578 in 299 plate appearances as one of the youngest regulars in the California League. If the A's wanted to make him their everyday shortstop in 2014, it wouldn't be that far-fetched an idea. His hands and his eye are ready to play; his aptitude for the game is so good that the bat will catch up.

Top level: Triple-A (Sacramento) | 2013 rank: 10
4Carlos Correa, SS
AGE: 19DOB: 9/22/94B/T: R/RHT: 6-4WT: 205
AVG: .320OBP: .405OPS: .872HR: 9SB: 10

Correa played the whole year at 18 in the low Class A Midwest League, one of the youngest regulars in any full-season circuit, and after a rough April, blew everyone away with his combination of physical potential and on-field acumen.

He hit .338/.410/.479 after an early-May DL stint caused by a pitch taken off the wrist, improving his approach at the plate as the season went on, and making far more contact than you'd expect of a player his age in his first year of pro ball -- he ranked above the league median in strikeout rate even with the bad start to his season.

Correa is a big kid, already 6-foot-4 and more than 200 pounds, likely on his way to 220 or so, which will push the boundaries of what typically plays at shortstop in the majors. But he's very athletic for his size, with solid footwork and a 70-grade arm. The tradeoff with his size will be power, as he already shows plenty of raw power and could end up in the 25-30 homer range.

He's got a quiet approach, short to the ball with great hand acceleration, moderately rotational, producing more line drives now than big flies but with the hand-eye coordination to do so down the road. Other than a lack of speed, he's close to the ideal prospect, and if he ends up following the Manny Machado route to third base, his bat will still make him a star.

Top level: Low Class A (Quad Cities) | 2013 rank: 24
5Oscar Taveras, OF
AGE: 21DOB: 6/19/92B/T: L/LHT: 6-2WT: 200
AVG: .310OBP: .348OPS: .819HR: 5SB: 5

It was a lost year for Taveras, who spent most of 2013 hobbling around in a boot to protect an injured ankle that refused to heal. He remains the Cardinals' best prospect and is probably ready to take over in right field for the departed Carlos Beltran, but losing out on several hundred Triple-A at-bats won't help his development as a hitter or as a professional ballplayer.

Taveras has tremendous leverage at the plate, with a high-effort swing that he's only slightly toned down since he first emerged as a top prospect in low Class A. He's a great bad-ball hitter with power to all fields, rarely striking out, but rarely walking, either. He's a lot like a left-handed Vladimir Guerrero at the plate, with a better glove in right but less arm (there are sniper rifles less powerful than Vlad's arm).

Besides health, Taveras has been knocked for appearing to play with less than full effort at times, although much of that in 2013 may have been a function of trying to play when he could barely walk. I still think he peaks as a .300 hitter with 30-homer power, but the lack of Triple-A time may slow him down in the near term.

Top level: Triple-A (Memphis) | 2013 rank: 2
6Francisco Lindor, SS
AGE 21DOB: 11/14/93B/T: B/RHT: 5-11WT: 175
AVG: .303OBP: .380OPS: .787HR: 2SB: 25

Lindor continues to play well above his years, reaching Double-A while still 19 years old, walking more than he struck out and playing major league-caliber defense already. I'm not sure what remains for Lindor to learn before he's ready to take over the position in Cleveland, and while they could wait for him to fill out a little more physically, he's strong enough now that big league fastballs aren't going to knock the bat out of his hands.

Lindor is a plus runner and switch-hitter with a good swing on both sides of the plate; his right-handed swing is a little better, as he keeps his weight back longer, but his platoon splits flipped this year from 2012 and I think he'll produce against all types of pitching. His feel for the game has always been his greatest strength -- he has instincts and game awareness, and when you combine that with soft hands and a plus arm, you get a Gold Glove-type of defender at a critical position.

Lindor doesn't look like a power hitter but has exceptional lower-half strength and his swing will allow him to eventually get to that power even though he doesn't finish with a ton of loft. Even at 12-15 homers, which is probably a neutral projection for him, he'll be an All-Star thanks to grade-70 defense and OBPs up near .400 with plenty of doubles and 20-plus steals a year.

Top level: Double-A (Akron) | 2013 rank: 7
7Javier Baez, SS
AGE: 21DOB: 12/1/93B/T: R/RHT: 6-0WT: 195
AVG: .282OBP: .341OPS: .920HR: 37SB: 20

Baez has the best bat speed of any hitter in the minors right now, and the ball explodes off his bat like he's splitting atoms with contact.

He's got 30-plus home run power, and showed at least some signs in the second half of 2012 that he could improve his plate discipline, working the count a little more effectively in some of his plate appearances. He's still prone to the at-bat where you watch him and wonder what he was thinking, the kind of brain cramp that won't be forgiven in the big leagues, but he can turn around the next time and hit a ball 400 feet the other way if the pitcher tries the same trick twice.

Baez is agile enough to handle shortstop, and could even be average or a tick better there, but his arm will play anywhere on the diamond and he's quick enough to handle second if the Cubs move him there. Wherever he plays, he'll probably start his career as a low-walk guy, maybe a .270/.310/.450 type of hitter right out of the chute, but the progress he showed in 2013 may give us hope he can improve that OBP in time and become an MVP candidate.

Top level: Double-A (Tennessee) | 2013 rank: 31
8Miguel Sano, 3B
AGE: 20DOB: 5/11/93B/T: R/RHT: 6-3WT: 195
AVG: .280OBP: .382OPS: .992HR: 35SB: 11

Sano is the best pure offensive prospect in the minors, boasting 80-grade raw power and an easy swing that generates hard contact using his hips and legs, along with a history of making adjustments to his plan at the plate.

He reached Double-A at age 20 last year, and after a slow start there hit .258/.374/.609 after the Eastern League's All-Star Game. His power is slightly ahead of his ability to hit and make contact, but he has shown plenty of the latter skill, with strong walk rates since he reached full-season ball and the ability to pick up spin and changing speeds.

His defense is still the main question, as he's still rough at third base and that body is only going to get bigger as he gets into his 20s. Sano is also dealing with an elbow issue which shouldn't require Tommy John surgery, but the possibility he'll need that procedure remains on the table, and it would cost him a few hundred at-bats he needs and could prevent a late 2014 call-up.

If rehab alone does the trick, or a move to first base, Sano should be in the Twins' lineup on Opening Day of next year, on his way to 30- to 35-homer seasons with mid-.300 OBPs.

Top level: Double-A (New Britain) | 2013 rank: 11
9Archie Bradley, RHP
AGE: 21DOB: 8/10/92B/T: R/RHT: 6-4WT: 225
W-L: 14-5ERA: 1.84IP: 152.0SO: 162BB: 69

This is what they're supposed to look like: Big, strong, athletic, aggressive, with a pair of 70-grade pitches and promise of a third one.

Bradley, who passed up a scholarship to be a quarterback at Oklahoma after high school, effectively skipped high Class A, throwing just 28 innings there before a promotion to Double-A at age 20, and improved his performance across the board despite the two-level jump.

His command and control were both significantly better in 2013; his walk rate dropped by nearly 30 percent from low Class A to Double-A, and his rate of walks plus hit batsmen dropped by 40 percent, while he even slashed his wild pitch total (which could also be a function of who was catching him) from 17 to 2.

Bradley works with a 92-98 mph fastball and a power curveball in the low 80s with depth and right rotation. He needs more work on his changeup, and needs to use his large frame to stay on top of the fastball so it doesn't sit up in the zone. His arm works and he's extremely competitive on the mound, so the Diamondbacks were right to move him out of the hitter-friendly Cal League as quickly as possible.

He'll be ready to help the major league team by the second half of this year and projects as their future No. 1 starter.

Top level: Double-A (Mobile) | 2013 rank: 29
10Kyle Zimmer, RHP
AGE: 22DOB: 9/13/91B/T: R/RHT: 6-3WT: 215
W-L: 6-9ERA: 4.32IP: 108.1SO: 140BB: 36

Zimmer's season ended on a bit of a down note, as a bout of shoulder tendinitis led the Royals to shut him down for precautionary reasons (an MRI was clean), but before that he'd been on a run that established him as a legitimate top-of-the-rotation prospect who's not that far away from the majors.

Zimmer will show you two 70-grade pitches in addition to his 93-97 mph fastball -- a yellow hammer curveball with depth and angle, and a mid-80s changeup with great arm speed and some late action to it. He's an outstanding athlete, as you might expect from a converted position player, and has less mileage on his arm than most college products.

He does use a fourth pitch, a below-average slider that he needs to junk or at least limit to just a few pitches a game, and he has a tendency to rush off the rubber and speed up his entire delivery, costing him command and reducing his body control through the process.

Zimmer finished his season on fire, punching out 63 and walking eight in his last eight starts of the summer, half of them after a promotion to Double-A Northwest Arkansas, and as long as his shoulder is happy he should move quickly to Triple-A. He's the future ace the Royals have been trying to develop since they traded Zack Greinke.

Top level: Double-A (Northwest Arkansas) | 2013 rank: 27
11Mark Appel, RHP
AGE: 21DOB: 7/15/91B/T: R/RHT: 6-5WT: 190
W-L: 3-1ERA: 3.79IP: 38.0SO: 33BB: 9

Appel came into last spring with an agenda on the mound after turning down a multimillion dollar offer from the Pirates, who took him eighth overall in the 2012 draft.

After hearing questions about his willingness to attack hitters and get swings and misses on his off-speed stuff, Appel tightened everything up for 2013, showing a little more velocity, a sharper breaking ball and a real willingness to claim the inner half of the plate and get into hitters' kitchens more than he had in the past. His decision to return to Stanford ended up paying off when the Astros selected him first overall in 2013.

On the right night, he'll show three plus pitches, sitting 92-97 mph on a fastball he complements with a wipeout slider and a low-to-mid-80s changeup with action and deception to it, but it's how he deployed those pitches last spring that impressed -- getting ahead with the fastball, changing eye levels, backing hitters off -- rather than just the pure stuff. Appel is a great athlete who repeats his delivery, getting out over his front side with a late release point and very clean mechanics.

Moving to every fifth day in pro ball might impact his stuff a little, but even if he loses 2 mph he's still a potential front-line starter with command and control of three above-average to plus offerings.

Top level: Low Class A (Quad Cities) | 2013 rank: Ineligible
12Jonathan Gray, RHP
AGE: 22DOB: 11/5/91B/T: R/RHT: 6-4WT: 255
W-L: 4-0ERA: 1.93IP: 37.1SO: 51BB: 8

Gray burst on the amateur scene last February when he hit 98 on a freezing Saturday in Oklahoma City on the college season's opening weekend, and it only got better from there, as he hit 100 mph a few weeks later and showed a venomous mid-80s slider that he could throw effectively to right- and left-handed batters.

The Oklahoma product's stock took a small hit when he tested positive for Adderall in MLB's predraft testing program, but after signing he made rapid improvement in the Rockies' system as Colorado made him throw the changeup more, to the point where it was flashing plus by the end of the summer.

Gray's a physical presence on the mound, with a lightning-quick arm, taking a long stride toward the plate with moderate hip rotation and accelerating his arm quickly after a slightly stiff landing. Other than the changeup, which is coming along faster than expected, his main issues are fastball command and maintaining his delivery when working out of the stretch.

He's a potential No. 1 starter with a very high floor as long as he stays healthy, as even fringy command will still lead to a ton of swings and misses on his primary two pitches.

Top level: High Class A (Modesto) | 2013 rank: Ineligible
13Gregory Polanco, RF
AGE: 22DOB: 9/14/91B/T: L/LHT: 6-4WT: 220
AVG: .285OBP: .356OPS: .791HR: 12SB: 38

Polanco is one of the most exciting position-player prospects in the minors due to his combination of all five tools and a very mature approach to all parts of the game.

His main calling card now is his plus-plus defense in center, with great range due to his speed and much better reads on balls than he was making early last year. He shortened up his swing without sacrificing any power, maintaining his high contact rates despite spending half of 2013 at Double-A in just his second year in full-season leagues. He's a 70-grade runner out of the box, and his plate discipline and approach are way beyond what you'd expect from a player so young and inexperienced.

He's going to impact the game on offense, on defense and on the bases, a 25-homer guy with high OBPs and outstanding glovework in the outfield. The suddenly talent-rich Pirates can prepare to get even richer.

Top level: Triple-A (Indianapolis) | 2013 rank: 55
14Julio Urias, LHP
AGE: 17DOB: 8/12/96B/T: L/LHT: 5-11WT: 160
W-L: 2-0ERA: 2.48IP: 54.1SO: 67BB: 16

The Dodgers signed Urias -- who is the youngest player on this list by a wide margin -- during the same trip to Mexico that netted them Yasiel Puig, which may end up one of the most productive scouting runs in baseball history, as Urias has enormous upside if he can just stay healthy while Los Angeles gradually builds up his arm to handle a starter's workload.

He has four pitches now, with a fastball up to 95 mph and a plus curveball, but stood out more for his feel for pitching, carving low Class A hitters up with his full assortment and by locating his fastball around the zone. He's barely 5-foot-11, but is young enough that he could still be growing; his weight is of greater concern, as he's a little chubby already -- although guys like Fernando Valenzuela weren't exactly body-beautiful, either. He also has a drooping eyelid (ptosis) that scared some teams off, but the issue is cosmetic and doesn't affect his ability to pitch.

For Urias to reach his ceiling, it's about staying healthy, and continuing to improve his command as he faces tougher hitters who won't chase fastballs up or watch curveballs right over the heart of the plate.

Top level: Low Class A (Great Lakes) | 2013 rank: Unranked
15Kris Bryant, 3B
AGE: 22DOB: 1/4/92B/T: R/RHT: 6-5WT: 215
AVG: .336OBP: .390OPS: 1.078HR: 9SB: 1

A first-round talent out of high school who ended up at the University of San Diego, Bryant went second overall to the Cubs in 2013 after crushing NCAA leaderboards into singularities all spring, then proceeded to do the same in a month and a half of pro ball, slugging .688 over the summer and .727 in the Arizona Fall League.

Bryant has big-time power, especially to his pull side, with huge hip rotation after starting with a very wide base. He has no stride and a tendency to slightly overrotate; combined with just average bat speed, it creates some risk that his contact rates will drop as he faces better velocity in Double-A or higher. He's a good athlete for his size and has a chance to remain at third base; if he has to move to the outfield, he'll be above average to plus in right, with plenty of arm for any position on the field.

At worst, he'll be an impact power bat with good defense in right and adequate OBPs; his ceiling is a 30- to 35-homer bat with .350-plus OBPs and solid-average defense at third, the kind of bat you stick in the cleanup spot so you can build your lineup around him.

Top level: High Class A (Daytona) | 2013 rank: Ineligible
16Taijuan Walker, RHP
AGE: 21DOB: 8/13/92B/T: R/RHT: 6-4WT: 210
W-L: 9-10ERA: 2.93IP: 141.1SO: 160BB: 57

Everyone still loves Walker's combination of athleticism, height and absurdly easy velocity, all of which earn comparisons to a young Doc Gooden, but with better makeup.

He took some small steps backward mechanically in 2013 while supplanting his curveball with a cutter, and while his ceiling remains very high, there's a little less probability than there was last winter. Walker gets into the mid-90s on his fastball with minimal effort, and the first part of his arm swing is easy and fluid. When he's on, his cutter is a swing-and-miss offering, although he's still developing his feel for it, time and attention that may be part of the deterioration of his curveball.

Walker's stride is shorter than ever now and he finishes very upright, which robs him of depth on his curveball and leaves his fastball finishing up in the zone, rather than with downhill plane from his height. He also wraps his wrist on the curveball and doesn't get the tight rotation he used to get on the pitch.

A pitcher with his classic frame who can hit 97 mph and has a potential out pitch (the cutter) is still an outstanding prospect, the best in the Mariners' system, but there will be unrealized potential here if he doesn't get back to finishing over his front side and getting that bite back on his curveball.

Top level: Majors | 2013 rank: 9
17Eddie Butler, RHP
AGE: 23DOB: 3/13/91B/T: B/RHT: 6-2WT: 180
W-L: 9-5ERA: 1.80IP: 149.2SO: 143BB: 52

The Rockies took Butler in the second round of the 2012 draft on the basis of his combination of a plus fastball with tremendous sink and a hard slider, but his low arm slot and lack of a solid third pitch had many teams viewing him as a likely reliever in the majors.

His slot is still low, but Butler is more than a two-pitch guy now and the Radford alum profiles as a future top-of-the-rotation starter. Butler will work in the mid-90s, touching 98 mph from the windup, with big-time life on the pitch because of his low slot -- not just sink, but tailing life as well, producing a ground out/air out rate just under 60 percent across three levels this year.

His silder is still there and still plus in the mid-to-upper 80s, but the changeup was the real revelation this year; if you saw the Futures Game, you saw him throw one at 90 mph that moved almost like a screwball, and you probably heard the gasps from everyone in the scouts' seats. He probably didn't belong in the low Class A South Atlantic League to start the year, but he was just as effective at his next two stops, with no platoon split to speak of in high Class A or Double-A.

With three pitches and the ability to keep the ball down, he's at least a No. 2 starter, and you couldn't find a better fit for Coors Field than this kind of power and life.

Top level: Double-A (Tulsa) | 2013 rank: Unranked
18Corey Seager, SS
AGE: 20DOB: 4/27/94B/T: L/RHT: 6-4WT: 215
AVG: .269OBP: .351OPS: .824HR: 16SB: 10

Seager proved to be an advanced hitter for his age when he tore up the low Class A Midwest League right out of high school, showing a good approach at the plate and developing power, especially after he came off the disabled list in early June. He has some mechanical issues to work out at the plate, weaknesses that high Class A and Arizona Fall League pitchers exploited, but they're fixable, and his size and athleticism give him star potential once he moves off shortstop to third base.

As a hitter, Seager has 25- to 30-homer potential thanks to outstanding hip rotation and a huge frame that is the main reason he'll eventually slide to third base. Late in 2013, he changed his stance, drifting and rolling over his front foot, which made him late on fastballs and gave him less time to recognize pitch types, but it wasn't something he did in high school or earlier in the year, and should be simple to correct. He's also hit southpaws well since entering pro ball, unusual for a left-handed high school hitter but a great sign for his future development.

Seager has very good hands and plenty of arm, but he'd be the largest shortstop in MLB history if he doesn't move, and most teams will opt for an above-average defender there. He'll be a above-average defender at third who gets on base and hits for power, which would make him one of the best third basemen in the majors when he reaches that peak.

Top level: High Class A (Rancho Cucamonga) | 2013 rank: 46
19George Springer, OF
AGE: 24DOB: 9/19/89B/T: R/RHT: 6-3WT: 200
AVG: .303OBP: .411OPS: 1.010HR: 37SB: 45

Springer may be a mold-breaker, a player whose raw abilities are so outsized that he can overcome contact problems that would sink almost any lesser player.

He grades out highly in all five tools, with plus power already and 70 speed once he's underway. His swing has a ton of leverage in it, almost knocking him over at times, but his hands are so quick that he makes a lot of hard line-drive contact -- when he's not swinging and missing, which he does often, in large part because he makes no adjustment at all with two strikes.

He's continued to improve his routes in center field and probably will stay there unless Houston ends up with a 70- or 80-grade defender to replace him. Springer could be a 30/30 player who draws plenty of walks; his ultimate value will depend on the contact he makes still being hard contact.

I could easily see him being a consistently high-BABIP guy who strikes out 180 times a year and still hits .280 or better, because of how quick his hands are, and that player in center field would be an All-Star.

Top level: Triple-A (Oklahoma City) | 2013 rank: 43
20Tyler Glasnow RHP
AGE: 20DOB: 8/23/93B/T: L/RHT: 6-7WT: 195
W-L: 9-3ERA: 2.18IP: 111.1SO: 164BB: 61

Glasnow was 88-91 mph as a high school senior but had a ton of physical projection to his 6-foot-7, broad-shouldered frame, some of which has already started to appear and has kicked up his velocity into the mid-90s.

His fastball is heavy and hard to elevate, so while he doesn't command the pitch that well yet -- not uncommon for a tall, lanky pitcher who's working to get those long levers working consistently -- low Class A hitters couldn't do much with the pitch.

He throws both a curveball and slider, with the slider the better pitch right now, hard and tight at 84-87, while the curveball has good 11-to-5 break and sits in the upper 70s. His command and control lag behind his stuff, as he's only a fair athlete and needs more reps to learn to improve his body control, but he did show gradual improvement in strike-throwing as the season went on. In his last three outings of 2013 he faced 54 batters over 14 innings, allowing one hit, walking 10 and punching out 24.

The scariest part about Glasnow is that he could still get stronger, and it's not hard to imagine him with three plus pitches, bumping 98 with plane and cleaning up the mess at the plate with either of his breaking balls.

Top level: Low Class A (West Virginia) | 2013 rank: Unranked
21Lucas Giolito, RHP
AGE: 19DOB: 7/14/94B/T: R/RHT: 6-6WT: 225
W-L: 2-1ERA: 1.96IP: 36.2SO: 39BB: 14

Giolito might have been the first high school right-hander ever taken first overall in the draft had he not suffered a thickness tear to one of his right elbow ligaments in March of 2012, eventually requiring Tommy John surgery. He was back on the mound as early as you can possibly return from that operation, back to hitting 98 mph again with great downhill plane that prevented hitters from elevating the ball against him all summer.

His curveball flashed plus-plus again, and his feel for the pitch will likely return with more reps; while he does need to work on his changeup, it was the best it's ever been during instructional league this past September, with good separation from the fastball and better arm speed. He's a very hard-working kid who does a lot of the little things well, like fielding his position and holding runners, which endears him to old-school coaches who place a lot of emphasis on those "fundamentals." I like those too, but I don't care as much when the pitcher is 6-foot-6 and has a chance for two 70-grade pitches with command and feel.

He might move slowly in 2014, as he's just 19 years old and will be in his first full year back from the elbow surgery, but he projects as a No. 1 starter not too far down the road.

Top level: Short-season Class A (Auburn) | 2013 rank: 77
22Raul Mondesi, SS
AGE: 18DOB: 7/27/95B/T: B/RHT: 6-1WT: 165
AVG: .261OBP: .311OPS: .672HR: 7SB: 24

Mondesi didn't turn 18 until the last week of July, but spent the entire year in the low Class A Midwest League as one of its youngest regulars, thanks to his plus defense at short (arguably a grade 70) and outstanding feel for the game, two attributes that earn him comparisons to Texas infielder Jurickson Profar.

The son of the former Dodgers Rookie of the Year with the same name, Mondesi has his father's face but not his body type, which is a good thing, as he's not likely to end up slow and fat as his father did in his 30s. Raul Jr. is lithe and quick, with easy, natural actions on all kinds of plays at shortstop, with a plus arm to go with it.

At the plate, he needs to get stronger first and foremost, and tends to glide a little over his front side, something he can make up for because his hands are so quick; his approach is solid, considering his youth, and he keeps his hands inside the ball really well for such a young player.

I don't see him developing his father's power, as he's more of a line-drive hitter, but he has a rotational swing that could get him to 40-odd doubles in the majors, and I wouldn't be shocked if he broke out this year at age 18 the way Profar did at 18 in 2011.

Top level: Low Class A (Lexington) | 2013 rank: Sleeper
23Kevin Gausman, RHP
AGE: 23DOB: 1/6/91B/T: R/RHT: 6-3WT: 190
W-L: 3-6ERA: 3.51IP: 82.0SO: 82BB: 14

It wasn't the ideal year for Gausman in 2013. He probably should have been left in the minors for a few more months before he was given so much as a spot start in the majors, where he struggled over 47 ⅔ IP, but he looked more like his old self later in the year when he resumed throwing his slider more often.

He has a strong three-pitch arsenal to project as a No. 2 starter, with a fastball that sits 94-97 mph and has touched 100 in shorter looks, with good life down in the zone, as well as a plus changeup that has long been his primary out pitch, with good arm speed and a very severe late tumble. His slider has come and gone since the Orioles drafted him, but at the end of September he used it more and it became sharper and more consistent, 83-86 with late bite, sometimes sweeping it away from right-handers but other times giving it an almost 11-to-5 break, although he was working in relief at the time.

He was in the majors too soon and could use a good 15-20 starts in the minors to focus on improving his command and feel for that pitch, but the promise he showed with it in relief -- MLB hitters failed to put any of the last 25 sliders he threw in 2013 in play -- should give Orioles fans a lot of optimism.

Top level: Majors (Baltimore) | 2013 rank: 26
24Noah Syndergaard, RHP
AGE: 21DOB: 8/29/92B/T: L/RHT: 6-6WT: 240
W-L: 9-4ERA: 3.06IP: 117.2SO: 133BB: 28

Syndergaard had an awesome 2013 season from start to finish, improving in multiple ways as the season went on while putting up superb numbers as a 20-year-old in high Class A and Double-A, and still has room for further improvement.

He already has the build of a workhorse starter, with velocity up to 98 mph that's easy like Sunday morning and the ability to get downhill plane on it when he stays on top of the ball. His changeup is comfortably plus already, but his curveball, a grade-40ish pitch in high school and early in his pro career, is already solid average, and plays up because he gets on top of the ball and releases so close to the plate; hitters swing and miss at it like it's a sharper, harder pitch.

It's very unusual to have a pitcher this young show this kind of athleticism, present command and pure stuff and even if Syndergaard doesn't improve further, he's at least a quality third starter who can handle 200-inning workloads, but the curveball could get a little tighter and push him up to a No. 2 or better.

Top level: Double-A (Binghamton) | 2013 rank: 97
25Braden Shipley, RHP
AGE: 22DOB: 2/22/92B/T: R/RHT: 6-3WT: 190
W-L: 0-3ERA: 4.99IP: 39.2SO: 40BB: 14

Shipley fell to the 15th spot in the 2013 draft thanks mostly to a run on bats in the 10 picks before the Diamondbacks selected, but that just made him a great value for Arizona, getting the sixth-ranked player on my own board, a super-athletic converted position player who already had a plus secondary pitch in his changeup.

After he signed, the Diamondbacks had Shipley correct a problem with his hand break that made it too easy for hitters to pick up the ball, but once he corrected that, he found it easier to get on top of the ball, and the curveball his college coach rarely called started to emerge as a plus pitch. (At Nevada, he would usually be prohibited from throwing the curveball at all until the fifth inning.)

Shipley pitches at 92-95 mph with his heater but can flash a little higher than that, with a legitimate big league out pitch already in his changeup, with good deception at 83-86 as well as heavy late action. His stride is very long toward the plate and his arm accelerates quickly once he turns it over; as you'd expect from a converted guy, he fields his position well and has the body control to repeat his delivery.

If the curveball he showed late in 2013 is a permanent feature he's on his way to being the No. 2 starter in Arizona not too far down the line.

Top level: Low Class A (South Bend) | 2013 rank: Ineligible
26Jorge Soler, OF
AGE: 22DOB: 2/25/92B/T: R/RHT: 6-4WT: 215
AVG: .281OBP: .343OPS: .810HR: 8SB: 5

Soler, who the Cubs signed for $30 million out of Cuba in 2012, was 55 games into a promising first full season in the minors when he fouled a ball off his leg, breaking a bone and missing out on a likely mid-year promotion to Double-A.

He returned to action in the Arizona Fall League, looking rusty but physically imposing, with a good 15-20 pounds of added muscle since I'd seen him the previous summer in rookie ball. Soler has outstanding hand speed and acceleration at the plate, with big-time power when he concentrates on staying back and letting his hips work to add leverage to his swing; he does have a tendency to cut across the ball rather than finishing toward the middle of the field, which reduces his power. His plan at the plate has been better than anticipated, and he's going to be above-average to plus in right field.

Soler was also suspended at one point for an on-field incident during which he threatened the opposing dugout with a bat after a hard collision at second base (and some words exchanged), a sign that while he's very competitive, he's still got some maturing and adjusting to U.S. baseball culture ahead of him. I see explosive offensive potential, with easy plus power and enough feel for the zone to be a middle-of-the-order bat.

Top level: High Class A (Daytona) | 2013 rank: 42
27Jameson Taillon, RHP
AGE: 22DOB: 11/18/91B/T: R/RHT: 6-6WT: 235
W-L: 5-10ERA: 3.73IP: 147.1SO: 143BB: 52

Taillon's a very good starting pitching prospect, but might fall a little short of fan expectations because the whole is less than the sum of the parts.

He has the raw ingredients to be an ace -- size, velocity (92-98, often more 94-98), a hard-breaking slider, and a history of throwing strikes. He can use the breaking ball to get left-handers out, backdooring it in counts where they might be looking for his changeup.

The problem is that hitters get a good look at the ball out of his hands, and say that his fastball is easier to hit than the velocity would indicate. He also has limited feel for his changeup, which comes in too hard and misses up to his arm side, possibly because he's overthrowing it. Taillon just turned 22 and is already in Triple-A, even with those areas for improvement, and could probably be a league-average starter for the Pirates by Opening Day of 2015, with a good probability of becoming a top 30-40 starter in the league at his peak.

Top level: Triple-A (Indianapolis) | 2013 rank: 20
28Albert Almora, OF
AGE: 19DOB: 4/16/94B/T: R/RHT: 6-2WT: 180
AVG: .329OBP: .376OPS: .842HR: 3SB: 4

Almora lacks the huge upside of the three Cubs position player prospects ahead of him on this list because his tools aren't as explosive, but he makes up for that with incredible instincts and game awareness that make him a very high-probability prospect who looks like a lock to spend a decade in the big leagues in center field.

He gets some of the best reads off the bat I've ever seen from an outfield prospect, so although he's a below-average runner he still plays a plus center field. At the plate, Almora has a clean, controlled swing that produces a lot of hard contact, with hip rotation for future average to above-average power. He has great hand-eye coordination that allows him to square up a lot of pitches, but has to learn to rein himself in and wait for a pitch he can drive to make full use of his hit and power tools -- and if that means taking a few more walks, well, both he and the Cubs could use that right about now.

Almora won't end up the superstar that the Cubs are hoping to get from Baez/Bryant/Soler, but should be a solid producer for years who sneaks on to a few All-Star teams as the baseball world learns to appreciate what he can do in the field.

Top level: Low Class A (Kane County) | 2013 rank: 33
29Robert Stephenson, RHP
AGE: 21DOB: 1/24/93B/T: R/RHT: 6-2WT: 190
W-L: 7-7ERA: 2.99IP: 114.1SO: 136BB: 35

The Lighthouse made solid progress this year despite missing about a month with a hamstring injury that still nagged at him even after he reached Double-A in mid-August.

Despite the leg issue, Stephenson still showed premium stuff, a 93-98 mph fastball and a power breaking ball in the low 80s that is almost unhittable, especially for right-handed batters. His changeup still has a ways to go, although the Reds are forcing him to throw a certain number each game so he doesn't just rely on blowing his fastball by left-handed hitters (which he can do, at least at the lower levels).

Stephenson stays over the rubber well and takes a long stride toward the plate, but he's pretty late turning his pitching arm over and is stiff when he gets out over that front side. He also has a head-bobble after release, which is usually a bad sign for the pitcher's command, but in Stephenson's case command isn't a problem, nor is control; he walked just 22 batters across both A-ball leagues this year, just 5.6 percent of the men he faced.

He'll pitch at 21 years old in 2014, likely starting in Double-A, and the Reds have handled him carefully enough to keep him healthy; as the changeup goes, so goes Stephenson, with that No. 1 starter upside still within reach.

Top level: Double-A (Pensaocola) | 2013 rank: 48
30Aaron Sanchez, RHP
AGE: 21DOB: 7/1/92B/T: R/RHT: 6-4WT: 190
W-L: 4-5ERA: 3.34IP: 86.1SO: 75BB: 40

The gap between Sanchez's ability and his results grew a little this year, a season when the latter should have been catching up to the former as he gained experience and his body matured. He continues to show top-of-the-rotation stuff, but not the command or control required to get there, and alterations to his delivery were at least one reason why.

Sanchez has hit 99 mph and sits 92-96 with very little effort to get there, and shows four pitches, led by a hard two-plane curveball in the upper 70s with shape and depth to it. He generates a lot of ground balls already, but the Jays tried to have him switch to a sinker grip this year, resulting in an outing where he faced nine batters, walked four, and couldn't finish an inning of work.

His delivery has also regressed, as he now has a terribly short stride and finishes with his torso almost completely upright, so his fastball rides up, his head jerks at release, and he doesn't get the same finish to his breaking stuff. Upright finishes are also associated with higher risk of arm injuries, so there's every reason to try to get him striding longer and finishing out front -- it'll keep him healthy and make him a better pitcher.

Until that happens, though, he's going to pitch below the raw grades of his stuff, which would be a shame given his arm and great makeup.

Top level: High Class A (Dunedin) | 2013 rank: 19
31Dylan Bundy, RHP
AGE: 21DOB: 11/15/92B/T: B/RHT: 6-1WT: 195
W-L: 9-3ERA: 2.08IP: 103.2SO: 119BB: 28

Note: Stats listed are from the 2012 season.

Bundy missed all of 2013 after tearing a ligament in his right elbow (an injury that was first called a forearm strain, then a flexor mass strain), which led to late-June surgery that probably puts him out until about the same point in 2014. When healthy, he was the best pitching prospect in baseball, boasting a fastball up to 99 mph, a wipeout cutter that he could command like a 10-year veteran, a hard curveball and a developing changeup.

He has an outstanding delivery -- the mere act of pitching does bad things to an elbow -- but Bundy generated most of his power from his lower half, and if we graded conditioning and work ethic Bundy would have graded out as an 80 in both. It may take a half-season or longer for Bundy's command and feel for his off-speed stuff to return, and I hope that the Orioles' emphasis on getting him quicker to the plate takes a backseat until he's back to full strength.

He's an incredibly special talent who should still be an impact player if the surgery proves to be nothing more than an extended vacation for him.

Top level: Majors (Baltimore) | 2013 rank: 3
32Nick Castellanos, 3B
AGE: 21DOB: 3/4/92B/T: R/RHT: 6-4WT: 210
AVG: .276OBP: .343OPS: .793HR: 18SB: 4

The Tigers' trade of Prince Fielder allows Miguel Cabrera to move to first base and clears the way for Castellanos -- who had been getting reps in the outfield in deference to Cabrera -- to return to the infield, which helps him as he's more valuable if he can prove he can handle third base. Castellanos is a batter first, posting an above-the-median batting line as the Triple-A International League's youngest position player (minimum 300 plate appearances), finishing in the top 20 in slugging and leading the league in total bases.

He's very strong for a 21-year-old, with a simple, repeatable swing that starts with a deep load and is heavily rotational, leading to that above-average power that will end up plus, probably 25-30 homers per year, even in Comerica Park. He tightened up his approach at the plate this year, recognizing after reaching Double-A last year that he needed to be more disciplined about pitches just off the corners. He'll need work at third base, as he's a below-average runner without much natural quickness, but with better footwork and more reps at the position he should end up at least fringe-average.

If he costs them five runs a year in the field, which I doubt, he'll more than make up for it with his bat, hitting .290-.300 with doubles and homers.

Top level: Majors (Detroit) | 2013 rank: 38
33Austin Hedges, C
AGE: 21DOB: 8/18/92B/T: R/RHT: 6-1WT: 190
AVG: .260OBP: .333OPS: .723HR: 4SB: 8

The minors' premier defensive catcher is one of the best bets on the list to have a long MLB career, although it remains to be seen what kind of role he has. His glove will keep him playing as long as he's healthy, regardless of whether or not he hits, but he has the raw power to become an impact bat for the position as well.

Hedges is as natural and smooth a receiver as any in the minors, with one of the strongest and most accurate arms as well. At the plate, he's reduced his stride and is more balanced than he was a year ago, still showing big-time rotation and loft in his swing, but his power wasn't evident on the field this year, only in BP, although some of that may have been a hangover from getting hit on the left hand with a pitch in early May. His contact rates are very strong for a hitter so young, as he was well below the Cal League median for strikeout rate despite being the second-youngest position player in the league after Addison Russell, so it's about getting into better counts to drive the ball, not an inability to hit.

He's ranked here because I see 20-25 homer power potential with a .250-.260 average, which, with plus defense, would make him an All-Star.

Top level: Double-A (San Antonio) | 2013 rank: 36
34Andrew Heaney, LHP
AGE: 22DOB: 6/5/91B/T: L/LHT: 6-2WT: 190
W-L: 9-3ERA: 1.60IP: 95.1SO: 89BB: 26

The Marlins' first pick (ninth overall) in the 2012 draft, Heaney showed himself to be more than just a "pitchability" lefty, working with a solid-average fastball and two plus secondary pitches as he dominated high Class A and came close to doing the same in Double-A in six August starts.

Heaney comes from an arm slot a little under three-quarters and cuts himself off slightly, but those two points both add to his deception, and the way he can manipulate the ball makes him even harder for hitters to square up. His slider and changeup are both in the upper 70s/low 80s, with the slider showing good tilt and angle and the changeup bringing good arm speed and downward fade, and he commands all three pitches.

If he threw harder and had a somewhat cleaner delivery, he'd be a top 10 or 15 overall prospect, but as is I think he's a good No. 3 starter trending up toward a No. 2 because of his control and how hard it is for hitters to pick up the ball.

Top level: Double-A (Jacksonville) | 2013 rank: Unranked
35Austin Meadows, CF
AGE: 18DOB: 5/3/95B/T: L/LHT: 6-3WT: 200
AVG: .316OBP: .424OPS: .977HR: 7SB: 3

Meadows, who ranked fifth on my 2013 draft board, went ninth overall to the Pirates in the pick they received for failing to sign Mark Appel in the previous draft, and the Bucs had to be celebrating when the best athlete in the class was still on the board for them with that selection.

He was a two-sport star in high school and seemed a little raw in baseball, especially at the plate, getting notice more for his explosive power/speed combination and the potential for his 6-foot-3, 200-pound frame to put on another 20 or so pounds of strength. He's a plus runner who can play center as long as he doesn't outgrow it and lose speed; his arm is fringy and would push him to left, raising the bar his bat has to reach for him to be a star.

Meadows has a sound left-handed swing, with good bat speed and the rotation to generate power from his legs as well as his arms; his finish is a little flat, and he could add a small stride rather than just a toe-tap. The Pirates have already made some minor tweaks, but were also thrilled to see that he had more feel at the plate and in center than anyone thought based on his spring.

He might have the best shot of anyone in the 2013 draft class to explode into an 8-WAR player, the way Mike Trout -- another huge, athletic center fielder who proved more polished than forecasted -- did after 2009.

Top level: Short-season Class A (Jamestown) | 2013 rank: Ineligible
36Travis d'Arnaud
AGE: 25DOB: 2/10/89B/T: R/RHT: 6-2WT: 195
AVG: .286OBP: .420OPS: .934HR: 3SB: 0

d'Arnaud would be a top-10 prospect if he could stay on the field, but 2013 was yet another injury-shortened year for the twice-traded prospect who has reached 400 plate appearances in just two of his six full pro seasons.

When he's on the field, he's an impact player on both sides of the ball, featuring outstanding receiving (including pitch-framing) ability, an above-average arm, and good relationships with pitchers, as well as above-average power that should lead to 20-25 homers if he plays a full season. His hand-eye coordination is excellent but his approach isn't as polished, as he's not a patient hitter and struggled terribly against both sliders and curveballs in his brief major league time in 2013.

A premium defensive catcher who even hits .240 with power is still a highly valuable commodity right now, as replacement level at catcher is low enough to give a GM the bends, so for d'Arnaud the main issue is just trying to avoid the trainer's room so he can get 450-500 plate appearances in 2014.

Top level: Majors (New York Mets) | 2013 rank: 14
37Dominic Smith, 1B
AGE: 18DOB: 6/15/95B/T: L/LHT: 6-0WT: 185
AVG: .301OBP: .398OPS: .837HR: 3SB: 2

Smith was the best pure hitter in the 2013 draft class, sporting a beautiful left-handed swing and flashing above-average power, along with plus defense at first base and an arm that reached 92 mph when he was on the mound in high school.

When Smith keeps his weight back, he generates big-time power from his lower half, with hard contact thanks to quick, strong wrists. He had a habit of drifting too quickly over his front leg, something the Mets seem to have worked on eliminating. He's a low-heartbeat hitter, approaching at-bats as if he were much older and more experienced. Smith is athletic but not a runner, and his footwork has limited him to first base, where he projects as a 70-grade defender thanks to incredibly soft hands. He has areas to work on, mostly recognition of breaking stuff and keeping his focus on using the whole field, which is minor stuff compared with the bigger issues of swing mechanics and plate discipline.

His ceiling is an impact bat at first, a cleanup hitter with 25-30 homer power and .300-plus averages to go with outstanding defense. I'd like to see him challenged with an assignment to the low Class A Sally League this year, as he's too advanced a hitter for short-season ball.

Top level: Rookie (Kingsport) | 2013 rank: Ineligible
38Hunter Harvey, RHP
AGE: 19DOB: 12/9/94B/T: R/RHT: 6-3WT: 175
W-L: 0-1ERA: 1.76IP: 25.1SO: 33BB: 6

The son of former big league closer Bryan Harvey, Hunter went to Baltimore with the 22nd overall pick of the 2013 draft, thanks to those bloodlines, a fastball consistently in the 90-94 range, and a hammer curveball he seemed to manipulate into different shapes.

He's a projectable kid, but the velocity ticked up right after he signed, as he was sitting 94-97 mph by the end of the summer and his command was just as good as if not better than what it was in the spring. His changeup flashes above-average but he still needs reps with it as it lags well behind his other two pitches; in a minuscule sample, lefties hit him much harder (.350 batting average against) than right-handed hitters (.154) did in pro ball. His arm slot is high, which gives depth to the curveball but can make it tough to turn over a changeup, which he'll need to combat lefties.

The Orioles have started to try to clean up and simplify his delivery, getting him more online to the plate. He's going to put on another 15-20 pounds, and if the changeup comes along he might end up in the same tier as Kevin Gausman and Dylan Bundy as a potential No. 1 or 2 starter.

Top level: Short-season Class A (Aberdeen) | 2013 rank: Ineligible
39Matt Wisler, RHP
AGE: 21DOB: 9/12/92B/T: R/RHT: 6-3WT: 195
W-L: 10-6ERA: 2.78IP: 136.0SO: 131BB: 33

The Padres' seventh-round selection in 2011 had a solid full-season debut in 2012, but last year was his coming out party as he improved in just about every possible way, from stuff to command to confidence on the mound.

Wisler works with two plus pitches already, a fastball at a legit 93-96 mph and a slider that's a grade 60 or a 70, working consistently in the bottom of the zone and showing no fear when attacking hitters on the inner half or even when falling behind in the count. The main knock on Wisler is his delivery, as he doesn't use his lower half as much as he should and he pronates his pitching arm late, with his front foot already touching the ground. That leads to some inconsistency in his slot, but he hasn't had any trouble yet with command or control, only with his feel for his changeup, which he can't turn over properly when his arm drifts down.

He's an 80-grade competitor and a diligent worker, giving him a better chance than most pitchers to reach his ceiling, which for him is a No. 2 starter who can handle 200-plus innings a year.

Top level: Double-A (San Antonio) | 2013 rank: Unranked
40Lucas Sims, RHP
AGE: 19DOB: 5/10/94B/T: R/RHT: 6-2WT: 195
W-L: 12-4ERA: 2.62IP: 116.2SO: 134BB: 46

Sims came on right from the start of 2013, his first full year in pro ball after Atlanta took him with the 21st overall pick in the 2012 draft.

Still just 19 years old, Sims works in the low-to-mid 90s, touching 96 frequently, with a power breaking ball that's already plus -- showing good depth and 11-to-5 break -- while his hard changeup improved as well this year with good fading action and adequate arm speed. He's put on 10-15 pounds since high school, helping him throw a little harder and maintain his velocity better into games. It's not an ideal delivery, as he pronates his elbow a little late and tends to fly open, but his arm is also very loose and once he gets it turned over it's extremely quick.

Sims still has a little room to fill out and add more velocity or just increase his potential workloads, and if the effort required to speed that arm up doesn't affect him -- or if Atlanta gets him to generate more torque from his legs -- he's a potential No. 2 starter for the Braves.

Top level: Low Class A (Rome) | 2013 rank: Unranked
41Joc Pederson, OF
AGE: 21DOB: 4/21/92B/T: L/LHT: 6-1WT: 185
AVG: .278OBP: .381OPS: .878HR: 22SB: 31

I whiffed on Pederson last year after he looked terrible in the AFL, a stint when (in hindsight) it seems obvious he was exhausted and couldn't show off any of his above-average tools. That became clear in the first half of this season, as Pederson showed power and speed as well as a great approach against right-handed pitchers, all while playing above-average or better defense in center.

I think he profiles better in right, as he's got the arm for it and most teams will have a better option on defense in center, but he won't hurt anyone out there if he ends up the starter. At the plate he has plus raw power already, trending up, with outstanding hip rotation after a moderately deep load back below his right shoulder, and a solid weight transfer as he strides into contact.

Pederson's only real weakness is facing left-handed pitching, as lefties dominated him this year across the board (.206/.282/.382 line) and he struggled to make contact against lefty breaking stuff. His father threw him BP left-handed when he was growing up, making this issue a bit of a surprise, and he's young enough to overcome it with experience; his front leg can get a little soft and roll over, which may (or may not) be connected. That's probably the only thing standing between him and becoming an All-Star big league outfielder.

Top level: Double-A (Chattanooga) | 2013 rank: Unranked
42Henry Owens, LHP
AGE: 21DOB: 7/21/92B/T: L/LHT: 6-6WT: 205
W-L: 11-6ERA: 2.67IP: 135.0SO: 169BB: 68

Owens was prospect No. 101 on last year's rankings, first in the column of guys who just missed the main list, but he showed across-the-board improvement in 2013 and now projects as a No. 3 starter with a chance to be a good No. 2.

He has always been a strike-thrower, but was working in the upper 80s as a starter in high school and right after signing, showing 90-92 in short stints. In 2013, he was working at that higher range as a starter and his curveball got sharper and harder as well, now more 72-74 as opposed to the upper 60s he showed the year before. The curve will settle in as an average to slightly above-average pitch, but he already has the swing-and-miss weapon in his plus-plus changeup, made even more effective because hitters do not pick up the ball out of his hand.

Owens has always had feel and control, but now the stuff is catching up to his polish and he's not far away from contributing in Fenway.

Top level: Double-A (Portland) | 2013 rank: Just missed
43Eduardo Rodriguez, RHP
AGE: 20DOB: 4/07/93B/T: L/LHT: 6-2WT: 200
W-L: 10-7ERA: 3.41IP: 145.0SO: 125BB: 49

A gut-feel choice for me last year at No. 100, Rodriguez came out throwing well from the start of the season, showing three pitches, two above-average and one with promise, earning a midyear promotion to Double-A at age 20.

Rodriguez will sit 91-94 mph with his fastball, mostly four-seamers with the occasional two-seamer, and has a plus changeup in the 84-88 range with good arm speed and hard fading action to his arm side. His slider is inconsistent, mostly 82-83, short and sometimes flat but other times sharp enough for him to backfoot a right-handed hitter. His arm swing is sound, although he's not consistent off the rubber, staying over it on some pitches and drifting forward on others, with more effort in his delivery when he drifts.

Rodriguez won't turn 21 until April and has both physical and mental development ahead of him, with the stuff to be a No. 2 starter but not yet the feel or command.

Top level: Double-A (Bowie) | 2013 rank: 100
44Jorge Alfaro, C
AGE: 20DOB: 6/11/93B/T: R/RHT: 6-2WT: 185
AVG: .265OBP: .346OPS: .809HR: 18SB: 18

Alfaro, one of my two sleepers for Texas going into 2012 (along with Cody Buckel, who broke out in 2012 but missed all of 2013 with the "yips"), repeated low Class A Hickory for most of last season after only about a half-season's worth of at-bats there the previous year, but made visible progress in many aspects of his game the second time around.

He has always had the raw tools to be a superstar, with an 80-grade arm and 80 power, but had no discernible plan at the plate other than "swing, then swing," and his tools behind the plate weren't matched by the effort or energy required to be an asset at the position. In 2013, he grew up, taking better at-bats and working harder at all aspects of his game, with good enough results for a late-season promotion to Myrtle Beach.

He's an unusual specimen for a catcher, built like a corner outfielder but athletic like a middle infielder, with the quick-twitch muscles of a player like Justin Upton, just lacking the finer things like instincts and effort required to convert them into performance. His 2013 season shows those aspects of his game are now coming, and if Myrtle Beach (a brutal park for power) doesn't stifle him, he could start to move more quickly toward an everyday major league job.

Top level: High Class A (Myrtle Beach) | 2013 rank: Unranked
45Clint Frazier, OF
AGE: 19DOB: 9/6/94B/T: R/RHT: 6-1WT: 190
AVG: .297OBP: .362OPS: .868HR: 5SB: 3

If you take Javier Baez out of the discussion, Frazier probably has the best bat speed of any player in organized baseball, with furious hand acceleration producing hard contact and surprising power for a player his size.

His value is all in his bat, as he's almost certain to end up in left field because he's an average-at-best runner with a fringy to below-average arm, although he has the aptitude to play up the middle if the situation forced it. That bat projects well at any position, however, thanks to those unbelievably quick wrists and a sound swing that doesn't leave him collapsing as so many "swing as hard as you can" hitters do. Frazier's main developmental need is recognizing off-speed stuff, which was a problem for him in high school, and even A-ball pitchers who have a little command of their breaking pitches will present him with a challenge.

His floor is low, as he has to hit to have value, but he's got an All-Star ceiling if he improves his recognition and can maintain high batting averages with 20-25 home run output.

Top level: Rookie (Arizona League) | 2013 rank: Ineligible
46J.P. Crawford, SS
AGE: 19DOB: 1/11/95B/T: L/RHT: 6-2WT: 180
AVG: .308OBP: .405OPS: .805HR: 1SB: 14

Crawford could have gone as high as 10th in the 2013 draft, as he was one of the Blue Jays' final choices for their pick in that spot, and was in every team's mix on down to the Phillies at 16, who were on him all spring as one of the draft's only true shortstops.

The Phils aren't afraid of slow-development guys, which Crawford appeared to be as a physically immature player who had present speed and some feel to hit. For these reasons his performance in the Gulf Coast League was surprising -- he finished second in the league in OBP and walked as often as he struck out, all while playing above-average defense at shortstop. He even held his own in a brief trial in low-A, an aggressive assignment for an 18-year-old just out of high school.

Crawford needs some help with his first step and actions around the bag at second base, and he's going to have to get stronger so he can continue to hit as he faces better fastballs, but the Phillies may have just nabbed an impact player in the middle of the diamond.

Top level: Low Class A (Lakewood) | 2013 rank: Ineligible
47David Dahl, OF
AGE: 19DOB: 4/1/94B/T: L/RHT: 6-2WT: 185
AVG: .275OBP: .310OPS: .735HR: 0SB: 2

I'm sure Dahl wishes 2013 never happened, as it began with a punitive demotion to extended spring training after just one game in the Sally League and ended in mid-May with a torn hamstring that refused to heal until instructional league. The demotion came after Dahl missed a team flight, a one-time event that by all accounts was an outlier for Dahl, and by instructs he was in great physical shape and able to move around without limitations. That puts us almost where we were last year with Dahl, except that he's lost about 350-400 at-bats of development that might have sped him to the majors.

On the field, Dahl boasts strong tools across the board, with above-average speed now that may trend down as his frame fills out, a variable that will determine whether he stays in center or moves to right field; his arm is strong enough for either spot and he'll likely show plus range in a corner. His real impact will come at the plate, where he's got a very quick bat and is short and direct to the ball, with good loft in his finish for future-plus power, possibly projecting as a 25 homer, 20 steals guy with good OBPs.

He looked very advanced at the plate in 2012 and may not suffer too much from the time off. He'll turn 20 on April 1, and even if he starts back in Asheville should be ready to spend most of the year in high-A or above.

Top level: Low Class A (Asheville) | 2013 rank: 37
48Max Fried, LHP
AGE: 20DOB: 1/18/94B/T: L/LHT: 6-4WT: 185
W-L: 6-7ERA: 3.49IP: 118.2SO: 100BB: 56

Fried had a good but not ideal first full year in pro ball, showing improved stuff and staying healthy but struggling more with command than anyone might have anticipated.

He worked in the low 90s all year but showed he can reach back for 96 when he needs it, and both his curveball and changeup will show plus, with the curveball a solid 65 or 70 on the 20-80 scale. Fried is extremely athletic with a loose if slightly long arm action, taking a good long stride toward the plate and turning over his pitching hand in plenty of time to bring it forward. He can repeat his delivery, but has a habit of nibbling as if he didn't have power stuff, trying to be too fine when he should try to blow a hitter away with velocity or a curveball breaking down and away from a left-handed hitter.

He's very competitive with great makeup, so no one doubts he'll make this adjustment in time and cut his walk rate as he moves up; he'll have to do so to continue to project as a future No. 2 starter.

Top level: Low Class A (Fort Wayne) | 2013 rank: 51
49Eddie Rosario, CF/2B
AGE: 22DOB: 9/28/91B/T: L/RHT: 6-0WT: 170
AVG: .302OBP: .350OPS: .810HR: 10SB: 10

Rosario is a mix of positives and negatives, a player who can really hit and run but hasn't settled into any position yet and whose makeup remains a major question, especially after a failed drug test that led to a suspension for the first 50 games of 2014.

At the plate, he has quick, strong hands and a good approach that leads to lots of contact but not walks; he's an above-average runner but has little or no idea what to do with it, posting a 50 percent success (or failure) rate in base stealing for the second straight year. In the field, he's solid-average in center field and would probably be plus in a corner, but the Twins' surfeit of center fielders has led them to try Rosario at second base, where he's fringy if you like him and a lost cause if you don't.

Rumors about Rosario being less than a great kid have been around for a while, but the drug suspension, for a second failed test for a drug of abuse, is the only tangible evidence that's the case so far. He needed those at-bats, as it's most likely at this point that he ends up back in the outfield, probably in left where he'll have to continue to produce 35-40 doubles power with a high average; missing 50 games at second base doesn't help his cause to stay at that position, either.

Top level: Double-A (New Britain) | 2013 rank: 65
50Yordano Ventura, RHP
AGE: 22DOB: 6/3/91B/T: R/RHT: 5-11WT: 180
W-L: 8-6ERA: 3.14IP: 134.2SO: 155BB: 53

Ventura still looks a lot like a reliever to me, a slight, 5-foot-10 right-hander with a huge fastball but a strong fly ball tendency that may make him too homer-prone to start in the majors.

He has improved his arsenal since this time last year, however, as the Royals worked hard to help him improve his changeup to ensure he has the three-pitch mix to start. Ventura will sit in the mid-to-upper 90s even as a starter, hitting 99 mph for me in one 2013 outing and repeatedly hitting 97 when I saw him start in 2012. His best pitch is a power curveball in the low 80s, short but very sharp thanks to its velocity, while the changeup, maybe a grade 40 before the year, was flashing average by year-end. He's also mixing in a slider/cutter in the 90-92 mph range, a pitch he's overthrowing a little but could certainly use as a fourth option, especially if the changeup ends up more of a fringy weapon against lefties.

Ultimately, his role is going to come down to whether he can keep the ball in the park enough; the fastball is hard but lacks life and he doesn't get plane on it, so he'll have to command it extremely well or pitch more with his secondaries to be a No. 2 or 3 starter. Otherwise, he's a potentially explosive reliever who'd probably sit 97-100 in one- or two-inning stints.

Top level: Majors (Kansas City) | 2013 rank: Just missed

Top 100 Prospects (#51-#100).
Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
Top 100 index | No. 1-50 | No. 51-100

51Jackie Bradley Jr., OF
AGE: 23DOB: 4/19/90B/T: L/RHT: 5-10WT: 195
AVG: .275OBP: .374OPS: .842HR: 10SB: 7

While Bradley Jr.'s Jackpot Wad took over Fort Myers last spring, with a .419/.507/.613 line in 62 at-bats, the push for his Hall of Fame induction might have been a touch premature, as Bradley wasn't the same guy when the bell rang in April as he was when the games didn't count.

Major league pitchers were able to beat him in the zone with plus velocity and down and away with off-speed stuff, but Bradley managed to perform as well as expected after a demotion to Pawtucket. His ideal game is plus-plus defense in center with a high OBP at the plate and fringy power, maybe 10 to 15 homers a year; when he tries to over-rotate to hit the ball out to right, he expands his zone and makes less contact as a result.

Staying short to the ball and focusing on going line-to-line rather than trying to hit for power should make him an above-average regular, with OBPs in the .360 to .380 range. He could also save 10 or more runs a year on defense, enough to make Red Sox fans say "Jacoby who?"

Top level: Majors (Boston) | 2013 rank: 40
52Billy Hamilton, CF
AGE: 23DOB: 9/9/90B/T: B/RHT: 6-0WT: 160
AVG: .256OBP: .308OPS: .651HR: 6SB: 75

I was a little too optimistic about Hamilton's hit tool last year, and his 2013 season in Triple-A showed he's not quite ready to make an impact in the majors.

Hamilton's an 80-grade runner, perhaps the fastest man to step on a baseball field in a few decades, and his baserunning has improved to an unheard-of degree since he signed with the Reds, who've also taught him to switch-hit and switched him to center field, with the latter transition more successful so far than the former.

His issue is that pitchers have begun crowding him on the inner half because his wrists aren't strong enough to handle hard stuff in on his hands; you need a certain degree of hand/wrist strength to hit what major league pitchers are throwing, especially to that area of the zone. If he can find that missing strength, he has the other tools to be an impact player -- his speed is game-changing, and he's already an above-average defender in center.

I'm still concerned about Hamilton's ability to make this adjustment, as his frame is narrow, so his probability isn't great, while his upside still is.

Top level: Majors (Cincinnati) | 2013 rank: 30
53Garin Cecchini, 3B
AGE: 21DOB: *****/92B/T: L/RHT: 6-2WT: 200
AVG: .297OBP: .388OPS: .865HR: 15SB: 7

Cecchini had a minor hamstring issue that slowed him down in 2013, but he showed he could really hit, projecting as a consistent .300-plus hitter whose future hit grade is a 65 or a 70. Now he just has to show he can stay at third base.

As a hitter, Cecchini has an extremely advanced approach at the plate, actually walking more than he struck out this year despite moving up a level midseason. He has some raw power but rarely shows it in games, preferring to use the middle of the field, although with no stride and a tendency to stay more linear and short to the ball, he'll have a hard time getting past 15 homers. His defense at third will never be pretty, but I believe he can stay there based on his instincts and game awareness, which will make up for a lack of first-step quickness.

His downside is a Bill Mueller-type of career, but I see Cecchini hitting for higher averages and OBPs while providing comparable defense at third base.

Top level: Double-A (Portland) | 2013 rank: Unranked
54Rosell Herrera, SS
AGE: 21DOB: 10/16/92B/T: B/RHT: 6-3WT: 180
AVG: .343OBP: .419OPS: .933HR: 16SB: 21

Herrera was my sleeper prospect for the Rockies going into 2012 but ended up demoted to short-season ball that summer and looked like he might never capitalize on his prodigious talent. He turned it around in 2013 in a return to Asheville, showing more maturity in all aspects of his game, with speed and power and even a surprisingly high walk rate.

His offense is a function of his immense physical gifts, as his lower half is going to generate noise complaints from neighbors, from a comically high leg kick and late landing to a soft front side when he overswings. He has very quick hands and likes to get his arms extended to drive the ball out to the gaps, with good hip rotation once his legs are firmly on the ground.

He might not stay at shortstop; he has the actions and quickness, but his frame is big and he could end up outgrowing the position and moving to third. He should have the power for the position, 20-plus homers a year, with solid OBPs once the Rockies can smooth him out at the plate.

Top level: Low Class A (Asheville) | 2013 rank: Unranked
55Colin Moran
AGE: 21DOB: 10/1/92B/T: L/RHT: 6-4WT: 190
AVG: .299OBP: .354OPS: .796HR: 4SB: 1

Moran went fifth overall in the 2013 draft, the first time the Marlins selected a college position player with their first-round pick since taking Mark Kotsay in 1996. In doing so, the Marlins passed on better athletes and players with more upside to take a very strong college performer who did almost everything you'd want from an amateur player at the plate.

His swing isn't pretty the way you'd expect from a left-handed hitter with his pedigree; he takes a long stride forward in the box but keeps his weight back, also keeping his hands very deep, with good hip rotation as well. His hands come set in a different spot from swing to swing, and he can get locked into a "grooved" path that has him cutting up too much through the ball. What he does have, beyond performance, are very strong wrists and forearms that allow him to drive the ball even when he's a half-tick behind in his timing, as well as excellent plate discipline and a willingness to lay off pitches he can't drive.

At third base, he has the hands and arm but is rough getting his feet started, in part because he always starts on his heels, and in part because he's not a quick-twitch athlete.

He'll have many questions to answer in the Florida State League in 2014, from his defense to his ability to hit better pitching, but if he answers most of those, he's a potential No. 3 or No. 5 hitter and above-average regular at third base.

Top level: Low Class A (Greensboro) | 2013 rank: Ineligible
56Blake Swihart, C
AGE: 21DOB: 4/3/92B/T: B/RHT: 6-1WT: 175
AVG: .298OBP: .366OPS: .794HR: 2SB: 7

Swihart, the No. 100 prospect on my list before the 2012 season, had a slow start that year but finished strong, and then carried it over with a breakout season in 2013 that saw him improve on offense and defense.

He is a tremendous athlete who played all over the field in high school, but last year the athleticism started to translate into very good defensive skills, with a plus arm that's quite accurate to go with better actions and receiving behind the plate. As a hitter, Swihart started to control the zone more effectively in 2013, with a 20 percent drop in his strikeout rate and a 33 percent hike in his walk rate even with the move up to high-A. He's a switch-hitter who lacked reps from the left side before entering pro ball but made substantial progress in his approach from that side last year, taking more than 80 percent of his plate appearances from that side.

Right now, Swihart is more of a line-drive hitter with doubles power but still projects to have average to above-average power when he peaks, 15 to 20 bombs a year, along with a strong OBP and plus defense behind the plate. He wasn't young for his level in either of the past two years, as he graduated high school at 19, but he's ready for Double-A now. With defensive wizard Christian Vazquez ahead of him, Swihart should get plenty of time in the high minors to continue to work on hitting left-handed and keeping his arm stroke short and simple behind the plate.

Top level: High Class A (Salem) | 2013 rank: Unranked
57Stephen Piscotty, OF
AGE: 23DOB: 1/14/91B/T: R/RHT: 6-3WT: 210
AVG: .295OBP: .355OPS: .819HR: 15SB: 11

Piscotty was the Cardinals' supplemental first-round pick in 2012, their third overall selection after Michael Wacha and James Ramsey, an upside play on a player with ability who came from a program at Stanford that didn't make full use of his skills.

Freed from those constraints, Piscotty finished his first full year in pro ball in Double-A, striking out in less than 10 percent of his plate appearances on the year, then tearing up the Arizona Fall League in a hint of more production to come. Piscotty has a line-drive approach right now with hard contact to all fields, but he'll show plus pull power in batting practice, and you could see him becoming more comfortable dropping the bat head to drive the ball out to left as the season went on.

He's adequate in the outfield, better with reads and routes than with quickness or raw range, with a strong arm to stay in right. He's not a great athlete and is a below-average runner, but there's All-Star upside in the bat, a future No. 2 hitter profile who hits for average and power.

Top level: Double-A (Springfield) | 2013 rank: Sleeper
58Marcus Stroman, RHP
AGE: 22DOB: 5/1/91B/T: R/RHT: 5-9WT: 185
W-L: 9-5ERA: 3.30IP: 111.2SO: 129BB: 27

As a relatively short, African-American pitcher, Stroman will get compared to Tom Gordon until the day he retires, but that might sell short the breadth of his arsenal and his chance to at least work as a starter in the majors for longer than Gordon did.

Stroman is an outstanding athlete who was drafted as a position player out of high school by the Nationals. He shunned Washington to attend Duke and made himself into a 2012 first-round pick on the mound, with a fastball that consistently sits 92-95 mph for 100 or so pitches. He'll now show three average-or-better secondary offerings in a hard slider/cutter at 86-88 that touched 91 for me in a short Arizona Fall League stint, a power slurve at 83-85 and a changeup with good tailing action in the 84-86 range. He has a very quick arm, and hitters don't pick up the ball well out of his hand, especially right-handed hitters who have to face his under-three-quarters slot coming right at them.

The knock on Stroman is his height. He's listed at 5-foot-9 and could be an inch under that, which makes it hard for him to get downhill plane on anything and will probably always leave him fly ball- and homer-prone. You can survive like that in the majors if you don't walk anyone, which Stroman doesn't, and if you miss a lot of bats, which so far he has. He's either a top-tier reliever, up in the Craig Kimbrel/Aroldis Chapman stratosphere, or a midrotation starter if he can keep the ball from leaving the park more than 25 to 30 times a year.

Top level: Double-A (New Hampshire) | 2013 rank: Unranked
59Erik Johnson, RHP
AGE: 24DOB: 12/30/89B/T: R/RHT: 6-3WT: 235
W-L: 12-3ERA: 1.96IP: 142.0SO: 131BB: 40

Johnson built on a solid full-season debut in 2012 with an even better 2013 that saw him move from Double-A to Triple-A and reach the majors in September, racking up a full workload of 170 innings with just 51 walks across the three levels.

His stuff was better most of the year than what you might have seen from him in September, but when he isn't overthrowing his slider, he gets more depth to the pitch and misses a lot of bats with it. The slider is new to Johnson since his college days at California, replacing the mid-70s curveball that had a sharp break but was less effective against better hitters. He sits best at 92-93 mph, able to throw harder but with less life and command. His main developmental need is to improve his changeup, which looks good out of his hand but has not been effective enough against left-handed hitters since he reached Double-A.

He's built like a workhorse who can handle 220-plus innings in his peak years, with the fastball and swing-and-miss pitch to get him there if he can find a solution to get left-handed hitters out more consistently.

Top level: Majors (Chicago) | 2013 rank: Unranked
60Rafael Montero, RHP
AGE: 23DOB: 10/17/90B/T: R/RHT: 6-0WT: 170
W-L: 12-7ERA: 2.78IP: 155.1SO: 150BB: 35

Montero has a lower ceiling than the pitchers ahead of him on this list -- and even many of the pitchers behind him -- but he's extremely advanced right now and has better stuff than your standard "command right-hander," which is often a euphemism for a guy with a light fastball.

He will show plenty of 93s and 94s and commands the heck out of it to both sides of the plate, pairing it with an above-average slider and an above-average changeup, nothing knockout but all very effective because he can locate. His arm is quick, and while he's got a slight build for a starter, there isn't much effort involved in his delivery. My one concern on Montero is that he's a fly ball guy and could be homer-prone in the majors, although in his favor is the fact that in Las Vegas, a brutal park for a fly ball pitcher, he gave up just four homers in 88 innings.

He has the stuff and control (walking just six men in his final six starts of 2013) to contribute in the majors right now, and if the Mets need an extra starter in April or May, he should get the call before Noah Syndergaard.

Top level: Triple-A (Las Vegas) | 2013 rank: Sleeper
61Mookie Betts, 2B
AGE: 21DOB: 10/7/92B/T: R/RHT: 5-9WT: 156
AVG: .314OBP: .417OPS: .923HR: 15SB: 38

Betts was one of the year's biggest breakout prospects, a 2011 fifth-round pick who had an unremarkable pro debut in short-season Class A Lowell in 2012, but ripped through both full-season A-ball levels last year and established himself as one of the best middle infield prospects in the game.

He has some early hand movement before he loads his swing, but it's window-dressing and doesn't prevent him from being short and direct to the ball, with good hip rotation and some loft in his finish that could eventually produce 20-homer power. He's a plus runner and at least a 55-grade defender at second, with good range to his right and the athleticism to end up plus there; I know some scouts see him as a potential shortstop if the opportunity were to arise. His best attribute might be his feel for the strike zone; he's very balanced at the plate, even when he sees off-speed stuff, and makes quick adjustments within each at bat like a player with more pro experience would.

He could be an All-Star at second, maybe close to that at short, and despite his short stature there's still upside here because he's such a good athlete that he has untapped potential on both sides of the ball.

Top level: High Class A (Salem) | 2013 rank: Unranked
62Alex Meyer, RHP
AGE: 24DOB: 1/3/90B/T: R/RHT: 6-9WT: 220
W-L: 4-3ERA: 2.99IP: 78.1SO: 100BB: 32

When Meyer is on, he looks like a top-of-the-rotation guy, sitting in the upper 90s with sink and a slider sharp enough to sever someone's femoral artery on its way to the plate. He doesn't throw his changeup enough yet, and it's a grade-45 on bad days and a 50 (average) to 55 on good days, just something he needs to throw more and more to improve his feel for it, since his low-three-quarters arm slot gives left-handed hitters a nice long look at the ball out of his hand.

He is very lanky, and long-levered pitchers don't have a great history in MLB, as they often take more time to learn to repeat their deliveries and seem, anecdotally, to be injury-prone; only Randy Johnson and J.R. Richard have reached 20-plus WAR among pitchers 6-foot-8 or taller, and only Johnson has made 250 starts.

Meyer does have exceptional stuff, however, and there's not a lot of effort involved in him throwing 97 mph lawn darts, so there's cause to believe he can be a starter and potentially a No. 2 given enough time and patience.

Top level: Double-A (New Britain) | 2013 rank: 61
63Maikel Franco, 3B/1B
AGE: 21DOB: 8/26/92B/T: R/RHT: 6-1WT: 180
AVG: .320OBP: .356OPS: .926HR: 31SB: 1

Franco had a huge year at the plate in 2013, showing power and outstanding plate coverage, ripping through two levels just a year after he looked like he might need a late-spring demotion to short-season ball.

The 20-year-old punched out just 70 times in nearly 600 plate appearances, so while his recognition of off-speed stuff is poor, he has enough hand-eye coordination to foul off some of those pitches and keep himself alive to hunt for another fastball. His hands get very high and deep, and between that and his raw strength he has at least grade-65 power, although he doesn't always get to it between that deep load and inconsistent hip rotation.

Franco's main problem right now is position; he is a poor defender at third, a well below-average runner with thick lower legs whose first step was too slow for the position, although he has a 70 or so arm. The Phillies have indicated they intend to move him to first base, likely because they see Cody Asche as their third baseman of the future, limiting Franco's potential peak value.

He's an everyday player as a first baseman who should hit .290 or so with a low OBP but 25-30 homers a year, which might get him into the occasional All-Star game along the way.

Top level: Double-A (Reading) | 2013 rank: Sleeper
64Rougned Odor, 2B
AGE: 20DOB: 2/3/94B/T: L/RHT: 5-11WT: 170
AVG: .305OBP: .365OPS: .839HR: 11SB: 32

Odor doesn't have huge tools, but he has the one that counts, the hit tool, and tremendous feel for the game that has always had him playing above his raw abilities.

His swing isn't textbook, with a lot of extraneous movement in his front leg and in his hands before he loads, and he never really comes set, but still manages to whip the bat through the zone and generate lots of hard contact, mostly doubles power now but probably growing into 10-15 homers down the road. He's a very good defender at second base and an above-average runner with good instincts on the bases -- and pretty much everywhere else on the diamond. He's an aggressive, intense player, one who is now learning how to channel that into consistent production at the plate.

I'd like to see a quieter approach, but you can't change a kid who's had this much success as is and may never need to make that kind of adjustment; he's a potential All-Star at second, most likely a consistently above-average regular whom coaches love for his energy as well as his talent.

Top level: Double-A (Frisco) | 2013 rank: Unranked
65A.J. Cole, RHP
AGE: 24DOB: 1/5/92B/T: R/RHT: 6-9WT: 220
W-L: 10-5ERA: 3.60IP: 142.2SO: 151BB: 33

Cole was traded to Oakland in the Gio Gonzalez deal before 2012, flopped in high Class A for the Athletics, then went back to Washington in the three-team John Jaso/Michael Morse deal, after which he seemed to right the ship somewhat, even working his way up to Double-A by year-end.

His best pitch is still his fastball, 93-97 mph without a lot of effort, a little true but also one that gets in on right-handed hitters quickly. His curveball is more of a power slurve, 77-84 mph and varying in shape as he tries to maintain a consistent arm slot for the pitch; when he stays up toward three-quarters, it has angle and depth, and when he finishes it out front, it's a real weapon for him in pitchers' counts.

He began using his changeup more in Harrisburg and it was approaching average by the end of August, although he still showed a large platoon split in Double-A. His control is well ahead of his command, but the latter will come as he gets more consistency with his arm slot and release point.

Cole's still on the thin side with room to add some muscle, more for stamina than for added velocity, but the key for him is body control and repeating that delivery. With the Nats having one of baseball's best rotations, they can take their time to get Cole right, and develop him into a good midrotation starter.

Top level: Double-A (Harrisburg) | 2013 rank: 89
66Taylor Guerrieri, RHP
AGE: 21DOB: 12/1/92B/T: R/RHT: 6-3WT: 195
W-L: 6-2ERA: 2.01IP: 67.0SO: 51BB: 12

Guerrieri was off to an excellent start in low Class A Bowling Green, running his career line to a 1.59 ERA in 119 innings with just 17 walks and 96 punchouts before his elbow snapped, requiring Tommy John surgery that will put him out of action until at least late summer.

He was a power arm out of the 2011 draft, but showed right away he had feel for pitching beyond anyone's evaluations of him in high school, locating down in the zone and throwing strikes with his fastball and breaking ball. Guerrieri will run it up to 97 mph but can find success a grade below that because he can sink it and work side to side, and the Rays have made him work more on the changeup since his curveball was already a plus pitch. He tested positive for marijuana while injured, leading to a 50-game suspension that will be covered by his time on the disabled list; it has little bearing on his on-field projection, but tells us something about a player's desire to reach the majors.

If Guerrieri can keep himself clean and get back on the field by August, he could be just a couple of years from a rotation spot, with No. 2 starter upside once he develops more feel for his change.

Top level: Low Class A (Bowling Green) | 2013 rank: 47
67C.J. Edwards, RHP
AGE: 22DOB: 9/3/91B/T: R/RHT: 6-2WT: 155
W-L: 8-2ERA: 1.86IP: 116.1SO: 155BB: 41

The Cubs acquired Edwards in the Matt Garza trade last July after which we quickly saw the return of his electric stuff and athletic, if slight, build.

Edwards will sit 91-96 mph with little effort, getting natural cutting action on the pitch as well as some downhill plane, and he has a big, old-school curveball that's a 55 or 60 on the 20-80 scale, and both pitches have missed bats in the minors. His changeup has made progress and was solid-average by year-end, giving him a three-pitch mix along with average control, similar in total package to Chris Archer at a similar stage of development.

Where Archer had size to go with his athleticism, Edwards is a rake, listed at 6-foot-2, 155 pounds, and while he's not that emaciated, he's still on the skinny side for a potential 200-inning starter. He's been healthy so far, and he has No. 2 starter upside if he can handle the workload associated with making 33 starts a year in the majors, a tremendous get for the Cubs for two months of Matt Garza's time.

Top level: High Class A (Daytona) | 2013 rank: Unranked
68Gary Sanchez, C
AGE: 21DOB: 12/2/92B/T: R/RHT: 6-2WT: 220
AVG: .253OBP: .324OPS: .736HR: 15SB: 3

Sanchez shows flashes of star potential but has yet to put any of it together for an extended stretch of time -- although in his defense, he played all of 2013 at age 20 and has already reached Double-A, where he'll probably spend most or all of this season.

He has huge upside as a hitter, with plus-plus raw power and very hard contact, even with a slightly noisy approach, thanks to huge hip rotation and great strength in his wrists and forearms. His recognition of secondary stuff needs work, but his hand-eye coordination is so good that he's always had good contact rates, even striking out less often in the Florida State League than fellow young'uns Miguel Sano, Javier Baez and Byron Buxton.

Sanchez is often compared, unfairly, to former Yankees prospect Jesus Montero, but Sanchez has always been a better catcher across the board -- catching, throwing, agility -- and just needed to show the commitment and a better work ethic, which he did in 2013. He has a cannon, at least a 70-grade arm, and has improved his release over the past few years, but the finer points of catching like game-calling are still a ways off, and he may never be a good framer.

Even a grade-45 defender back there with Sanchez's potential offensive upside will be an MVP candidate, and if he continues to work at receiving and on his plate discipline he'll be ready to take over and make a real impact for the Yankees by 2016.

Top level: Double-A (Trenton) | 2013 rank: 18
69Kyle Crick, RHP
AGE: 21DOB: 11/30/92B/T: L/RHT: 6-4WT: 220
W-L: 3-1ERA: 1.57IP: 68.2SO: 95BB: 39

Crick has two huge pitches in his fastball and slider, and hitters have a hard time connecting with either pitch, as his 34 percent strikeout rate in high Class A attests (43 percent in the Arizona Fall League).

The fastball is 92-97 and the mid-80s slider has average tilt but plays up because it's hard and hitters pick up the break late. He's got the size to be a starter as well, country strong and already looking like a big leaguer physically. There's a lot of refining to do from here, however, starting with his well below-average command, thanks to a high-effort delivery that he still hasn't gotten under control. His changeup remains a below-average pitch, hard and straight and easy to pick up, leading to big platoon splits. Crick missed time in the regular season with an oblique strain, throwing just 83 innings on the season including the AFL, so he may spend 2014 facing an innings cap.

Double-A will be a key test for Crick, who will have to command his fastball better and find a way to get lefties out now that he'll be facing a higher caliber of hitter. I know many scouts who see him as a potential No. 2 starter, but his probability right now is low and he may be more of a power reliever instead.

Top level: High Class A (San Jose) | 2013 rank: 76
70Mike Foltynewicz, RHP
AGE: 22DOB: 10/7/91B/T: R/RHT: 6-4WT: 200
W-L: 6-3ERA: 3.06IP: 129.1SO: 124BB: 66

Foltynewicz, which is Polish for "throws gas," had a strong showing in his second season at low Class A in 2012, and came into last season needing to show that his success there had nothing to do with his experience level. It's fair to say now that that's the case, as Foltynewicz was quickly promoted out of high Class A and pitched fairly well as a 21-year-old in Double-A, hitting 100 mph in every start of the year but his final one (when he topped out at 99, he must have been exhausted) and showing improvement in both secondary pitches.

His curveball and changeup are both developing, the curve (present grade of 55, future 60) more than the change (45/50), although with his impressive arm speed he could probably pick up a slider like it was a $20 bill lying on the pavement. For Foltynewicz, it's now about refinement -- improving his fastball command, working more to the bottom of the zone, and getting consistency with the two off-speed weapons.

It's an ace's fastball, but I think the overall package is more of a league-average to above-average starter, 200-plus innings of better performance than the Astros have seen from a starter in quite some time.

Top level: Double-A (Corpus Christi) | 2013 rank: Unranked
71Arismendy Alcantara, 2B
AGE: 22DOB: 10/29/91B/T: B/RHT: 5-10WT: 160
AVG: .271OBP: .352OPS: .804HR: 15SB: 31

Alcantara was a bit of a surprise pick for the 2013 Futures Game, given how many higher-profile prospects the Cubs have, but homered from the left side and impressed scouts with his range of tools; he had a cold spell right after the game, but bounced back in August for a solid seasonal line that still doesn't give you a great idea of his upside as a potential All-Star at second base.

He can run and is a legitimate switch-hitter with sneaky power thanks to very strong wrists. He's a versatile athlete who could back up shortstop but probably shouldn't play it every day; he could also likely handle center or third base if needed, and might be a candidate for a Tony Phillips-type super-utility role.

He needs to tighten up his control of the strike zone and a full year of playing second base would help him substantially. Of note: He bears a striking resemblance to Chris Paul.

Top level: Double-A (Tennessee) | 2013 rank: Sleeper
72Chris Owings, SS
AGE: 22DOB: 8/12/91B/T: R/RHT: 5-10WT: 180
AVG: .330OBP: .359OPS: .841HR: 12SB: 20

Owings returns to the rankings after an absence of two years; he ranked 84th in 2011 but comical walk rates and a lack of development in his approach at the plate seemed to slow his progress.

His 2013 line was boosted by playing in hitter-friendly Triple-A Reno, but Owings' bat speed is undeniable and his swing is simple and direct. I don't see loft in the swing for home-run power, but he's an above-average runner and I think he'll hit plenty of line-drives to the gaps for 30-40 doubles a year. At shortstop, he has great instincts, quick feet, and a plus arm, everything required to be at least a 60-grade defender there -- very much what Didi Gregorius was supposed to be, but with better hit and run tools.

Owings was 17 years old when he signed, so he had 2,000 pro plate appearances before he turned 22 and is more than ready to take over as the everyday shortstop in Arizona now, where he might walk once a week but will contribute in plenty of other ways to keep the job.

Top level: Majors (Arizona) | 2013 rank: Unranked
73Nick Kingham, RHP
AGE: 22DOB: 11/8/91B/T: R/RHT: 6-5WT: 220
W-L: 9-6ERA: 2.89IP: 143.1SO: 144BB: 44

Kingham was the Pirates' fourth-round pick in 2010 out of Las Vegas powerhouse Sierra Vista High School, which has also recently produced Astros first baseman Chris Carter and Tampa Bay's 2011 first-round pick Jake Hager.

Kingham looks like the best prospect the school has churned out so far, a command right-hander with three solid to above-average pitches and a fluid delivery that's easy for him to repeat. He'll sit in the low 90s with an above-average curveball, and his changeup has gradually improved over the past two seasons to the point at which it's consistently average or better -- at times the superior weapon to the breaking ball. Kingham comes from a slot just below three-quarters but gets on top of the ball well; his stride is moderate, but there's so little effort to his arm swing it's hard to believe he can reach the 93-94 range.

I wish he had a little more life or plane on the fastball, as he's a moderate fly ball pitcher, but all of the other elements are in place for a league-average, 200-inning starter once he gets a few reps in the majors.

Top level: Double-A (Altoona) | 2013 rank: Sleeper
74Alen Hanson, SS
AGE: 21DOB: 10/22/92B/T: B/RHT: 5-11WT: 170
AVG: .274OBP: .329OPS: .755HR: 8SB: 30

The 2013 season was a mixed bag for Hanson, who came into the season needing to work on his defense at shortstop. He did so, but perhaps to the detriment of his offensive performance.

At the plate, Hanson has a compact left-handed swing that makes a lot of contact with below-average power, while his right-handed swing has more loft but has produced less contact as he's moved up the minor league ladder. He's patient enough to work deep counts but isn't at the point at which he can convert that into either a high OBP or hard contact in hitter's counts; in the Arizona Fall League, in which he was clearly tired, he was chasing fastballs up and sliders down and away, looking completely overmatched as a result.

His defense improved substantially over the course of 2013; he was always athletic enough for the position but worked on his footwork and his mental approach at short, reducing the mistakes that bedeviled him in 2012.

His ceiling is an average defender at short who hits .300 with 50-60 walks per season and doubles power, which would be an above-average or better regular, but to get there, he'll have to shorten up from the right side and continue to improve his ball-strike recognition.

Top level: Double-A (Altoona) | 2013 rank: 34
75Zach Lee, RHP
AGE: 22DOB: 9/13/91B/T: R/RHT: 6-3WT: 190
W-L: 10-10ERA: 3.22IP: 142.2SO: 131BB: 35

I like Lee a little more than this ranking indicates, in part because I believe in betting on superior athletes to improve, even when a comparable player of less athletic ability would have plateaued.

If Lee never gets better, he's still a future No. 3 starter with a solid, average fastball at 90-94 mph which he can locate and an average-to-tick-above curveball that could be a little sharper. He'll also show a changeup with good action and a slider that, depending on the day, can look better than the curveball, although the consensus is that the latter will be his primary breaking ball.

Lee's an excellent athlete -- formerly committed to play quarterback at LSU -- with an easy, fluid delivery and superlative body control. I still think there's another gear in there when he gets to age 24 or so, maybe another grade of fastball, maybe a little quicker arm that makes the curveball sharper. He has a high floor thanks to his command and feel, but there is plenty of reason to hope for a little more.

Top level: Double-A (Chattanooga) | 2013 rank: 67
76Kohl Stewart, RHP
AGE 19DOB: 10/7/94B/T: R/RHT: 6-3WT: 195
W-L: 0-0ERA: 1.35IP: 20SO: 24BB: 4

Stewart, a two-sport star who turned down a scholarship to play quarterback at Texas A&M to try his luck at baseball instead, was the fourth overall pick in the 2013 draft and the first high school player taken.

He is a great athlete with exceptional arm strength but has a long way to go to develop into a frontline starter because his delivery is so crude. He's up to 97 mph without a lot of effort, sitting at 92-94 with good downhill plane and a little arm-side run. His slider is his best pitch right now: 85-88 with good, late tilt, but his command of the pitch is below average, not where his command of his power 79-82 mph curveball is. He does throw a changeup, making him an unusual prep pitcher with the full four-pitch mix, and has good arm speed at 83-85 with no action.

Stewart's delivery doesn't reflect his athleticism, as his hips are stiff and he gets his pitching arm turned over late, drifting off the rubber rather than striding with more force. All of those factors mean he has ace stuff, with a chance for at least two plus-plus pitches and four that are average or better but lacks the command or control right now to put them to good use.

The Twins will likely spend a lot of time with Stewart this spring, working on making him into a pitcher rather than a thrower, so he might be a good five years away from the majors, though he is the system's most exciting pitching prospect.

Top level: Rookie (Elizabethton) | 2013 rank: Ineligible
77Jesse Biddle, LHP
AGE: 22DOB: 10/22/91B/T: L/LHT: 6-4WT: 225
W-L: 5-14ERA: 3.64IP: 138.1SO: 154BB: 82

Biddle is the Phillies' top pitching prospect, a local product who was outstanding early in the season before he came down with whooping cough.

When healthy, Biddle will sit at 90-92 mph but has 93-94 potential when he needs it. He complements the fastball with a big, slow curveball that lefties do not pick up at all, as well as solid-average changeup that he's continuing to improve his feel for. His fastball command came and went this season, with the illness -- which didn't prevent him from making every start until his last scheduled one of the season -- one factor behind that, but in his favor was an increased ability to get swings and misses on the fastball, something he'll need as neither the curve nor the change is a bona fide out pitch.

He's a solid No. 3 starter -- a little above league average -- with the potential for more if he doesn't contract diphtheria this summer.

Top level: Double-A (Reading) | 2013 rank: 95
78Jonathan Singleton, 1B
AGE: 22DOB: 9/18/91B/T: L/LHT: 6-2WT: 235
AVG: .230OBP: .351OPS: .753HR: 11SB: 1

Singleton missed the first 50 games of 2013 after testing positive for marijuana, a drug for which players on the 40-man roster aren't tested, meaning this is no longer an issue for Singleton going forward. After his return, however, he wasn't in great shape and never got going at the plate until going to Puerto Rico for winter ball. He's probably in line to return to Triple-A to start 2014.

Everything the industry liked about Singleton in 2012 is still there -- a beautiful left-handed swing with extension through contact for power and great balance from start to finish. He's ready to face right-handed major league pitching right now, but his recognition against lefties has long been a weakness, with 48 punchouts in 120 plate appearances against them in 2013.

The floor here is a platoon regular who destroys right-handers but needs a caddie against southpaws; he has just 600 plate appearances against lefties in his pro career, though, and might just need more reps to become a complete player who is capable of hitting .270-280 with 25-plus homers and a strong OBP.

Top level: Triple-A (Oklahoma City) | 2013 rank: 32
79Hak-Ju Lee, SS
AGE: 23DOB: 11/4/90B/T: L/RHT: 6-1WT: 170
AVG: .422OBP: .536OPS: 1.136HR: 1SB: 6

I saw Lee play on April 18 and was pleased to see a much better setup and swing from him at the plate than he'd showed in the Arizona Fall League in 2012. In his next game, however, he suffered a tramautic knee injury that knocked him out for the season and leaves his future potential up in the air.

So much of Lee's game revolves around his speed that if the injury reduces his ability to run or limits his lateral quickness at shortstop, he might lose any chance to be an impact player. That would be a shame because, prior to the injury, he looked like a star at shortstop, a potential plus defender and runner who has a very good approach at the plate with a line-drive swing, lacking only power among the five tools.

He's ranked in a holding pattern here until we see how much of his quickness remains, and for his sake and baseball's in general -- another Korean star player in MLB would only help grow the game globally -- I hope his tools are all intact.

Top level: Triple-A (Durham) | 2013 rank: 78
80Delino DeShields, OF
AGE: 21DOB: 8/16/92B/T: R/RHT: 5-9WT: 205
AVG: .317OBP: .405OPS: .873HR: 5SB: 51

DeShields didn't steal 100 bags again in 2013 but did have a solid season as a 20-year-old in hitter-friendly Lancaster, although, at this point, it's looking more like he'll end up in the outfield, most likely in left.

He can hit, with a short swing and strength to drive the ball to the gaps and maybe peaking as a 10-12 homer guy. An 80-grade runner in high school, he's more of a 65 runner now when underway, which is still plenty fast to rack up high stolen-base totals in the majors. His defense at second and in center remains below average, and his arm might limit him to left field down the road, where the Astros would hope he'd be a modern-day Tim Raines: getting on base with good defense and baserunning value.

His main issue, however, is a lack of effort -- his on-field effort level is often embarrassing and has many scouts I've talked to dismissing him as a top prospect entirely. I see a 21-year-old with a lot of physical ability who needs to grow up to reach his ceiling, but he's far too young to assume he'll never be able to do it.

Top level: High Class A (Lancaster) | 2013 rank: 83
81Miguel Almonte, RHP
AGE: 20DOB: 4/4/93B/T: R/RHT: 6-2WT: 180
W-L: 6-9ERA: 3.10IP: 130.2SO: 132BB: 36

Almonte was one of several sleepers I mentioned in the still-exciting Royals system last season and should join fellow top-100 prospect Raul Mondesi in high Class A Wilmington this April on a club that might have half of the Royals' top 10 prospects on its Opening Day roster.

Almonte's potential is tremendous, with the upside of a No. 1 or 2 starter if everything clicks for him. He'll show an above-average fastball every time out now, but he'll flash a 70-grade fastball in some starts, hitting 95-96 mph on those nights, and his changeup is plus right now -- so good, in fact, that he might use it too often when he needs to work on his breaking ball and fastball command. He likes to throw two variations on the curve -- one a spike that he can't command (almost nobody can) -- and it's going to be time for him to pick one and focus on developing it to the exclusion of the other. Almonte's arm is very quick but he's still learning how to generate that speed from his lower half instead of just relying on his arm quickness.

That's about three major areas for him to improve on to reach that ceiling, which sounds like a lot until you see his birth date and consider that he started 2012 still in the Dominican Republic. He's a player Royals fans can dream on.

Top level: Low Class A (Lexington) | 2013 rank: Sleeper
82Vincent Velasquez, RHP
AGE: 21DOB: 6/7/92B/T: B/RHT: 6-3WT: 203
W-L: 4-3ERA: 2.99IP: 78.1SO: 100BB: 32

My sleeper prospect for Houston going into 2012 came back late in that season from 2010 Tommy John surgery but was back at full strength last season and quietly had an outstanding season for a kid making his full-season debut, even if it was a year later than expected.

Velasquez has filled out nicely since high school and now sits at 93-94 mph with his fastball -- touching 96. He's always had a good changeup, which now shows plus at times, with average command of both pitches and above-average control overall. Velasquez's biggest issue now is the breaking ball, which ranges from well below average to above average within the same game -- sometimes within the same inning -- because he hasn't found consistent feel for his release of that pitch -- a little surprising given his three-quarters arm slot and ability to stay on top of the ball.

He needs more reps -- he is 21 and has fewer than 200 innings of pro experience across three-plus seasons -- to see if the curve can become an average or better pitch; if it does, he's at least a mid-rotation guy, and, if not, I think he has the control and changeup to still be a No. 4 starter.

Top level: High Class A (Lancaster) | 2013 rank: Unranked
83Brian Goodwin, CF
AGE: 23DOB: 11/2/90B/T: L/RHT: 6-1WT: 195
AVG: .252OBP: .355OPS: .762HR: 10SB: 19

Goodwin skipped high Class A in the summer of 2012, largely because the field conditions at Potomac are so poor that the Nats don't like sending outfield prospects there. Instead, he went right to Double-A Harrisburg, where he showed flashes of all five tools but never put everything together like I'd hoped, and returned there for all of 2013.

His season was uneven -- not bad -- as he did a lot of smaller things well, like working the count more effectively and improving his reads on defense. Goodwin is a plus-plus runner with quick wrists and generates plenty of bat speed for doubles and triples power with enough rotational action for maybe 10-15 homers per season. His arm would play in right or center, and with his speed, I think he's a lock to stay in center. His approach against right-handers is good, and his recognition problems with breaking stuff show up mostly against lefties, resulting in a growing platoon split.

When he's "on," there's an explosive aspect to his game that makes me think there's more production coming down the road and that he'll put everything together and end up a 70-grade defender who hits .280 with 70-80 walks per season and a slew of extra-base hits. He's just progressing in fits and starts and might be a guy who needs an extra 500 at-bats before the tools fully translate into results.

Top level: Double-A (Harrisburg) | 2013 rank: 44
84Jake Marisnick, CF
AGE: 23DOB: 3/30/91B/T: R/RHT: 6-3WT: 225
AVG: .289OBP: .350OPS: .840HR: 12SB: 11

Marisnick didn't belong in the majors in 2013; it seems like the Marlins might not have realized that he and Christian Yelich could play on separate teams, so when they promoted Yelich in July, they brought Marisnick up at the same time, but Marisnick hit just .183/.231/.248 in 118 plate appearances.

He's a very good athlete who already plays an excellent center field and whose power-speed combination might make him a better fantasy hitter than real-baseball hitter. Marisnick has a lot of swing and miss in his approach -- from poor pitch recognition to timing problems -- but when he gets his arms extended, he has above-average-to-plus power out to left and left-center and has the speed to turn some singles into doubles.

Rushing him a half-season too early won't help him work on his ability to pick up breaking stuff; he could probably use three months in Triple-A, if not more. Even if the Marlins feel like his defense will help them now, they might be leaving some potential untapped by forcing him to sink or swim against major league arms.

Top level: Double-A (Harrisburg) | 2013 rank: 44
85Tyler Austin, OF
AGE: 22DOB: 9/6/91B/T: R/RHT: 6-1WT: 220
AVG: .265OBP: .351OPS: .730HR: 6SB: 4

Austin's all about the bat -- he can play right field but is nothing special there, and two seasons removed from any time at third base means he has no real chance to return to the dirt.

Unfortunately, he suffered a bone bruise in his wrist in late April, which he tried to play through it into July, that wrecked his first season in Double-A. He returned briefly in August and went to the Arizona Fall League but left there after two weeks with further discomfort in the joint. When healthy, Austin has a very sound swing that is geared both toward contact and power and is short to contact with good extension. He rotates his hips well to generate power, all with enough patience to keep his OBP in the .350 range. The wrist injury left his bat speed slower -- you see he was late on fastballs he'd have squared up a season before -- and it sapped most of his power as well.

He'll be only about average in right field -- making the necessary plays but not much more -- so he needs to hit and hit for power to be a regular. Like Hak-Ju Lee, he's still on this list as I wait to see if he's back to full strength in 2014, because I do believe in his potential with the bat.

Top level: Double-A (Trenton) | 2013 rank: 52
86Jonathan Schoop, SS
AGE: 22DOB: 10/16/91B/T: R/RHT: 6-2WT: 210
AVG: .278OBP: .330OPS: .790HR: 14SB: 1

Schoop's season was all but ruined by a stress fracture in his lower back, so while he appeared for six different clubs in 2013 (including the Dutch World Baseball Classic team and Surprise in the Arizona Fall League), he was never quite himself anywhere he played.

He is a monster physically, and when he's healthy, he has plus to plus-plus power already, with 25-30 homer potential in a few years. He had some trouble with his swing this season after the back issue cropped up but looked better in the AFL -- more balanced throughout his swing and looser than he had been all season. But his timing was off and he didn't perform any better in Arizona than he had in Triple-A.

Schoop has played shortstop, but he's too big for the position, and after the back injury, Baltimore moved him to second base full time. I think he's a better fit at third; he has a 55- or 60-grade arm, and his hands are more than good enough for the infield, and the power will play at third base. Schoop needed the reset button of an offseason, and if he's healthy to start 2014, he could be in Baltimore by midseason at the keystone.

Top level: Majors (Baltimore) | 2013 rank: 50
87Mason Williams, OF
AGE: 22DOB: 8/21/91B/T: L/RHT: 6-1WT: 180
AVG: .245OBP: .304OPS: .641HR: 4SB: 15

Williams was one of several top Yankee prospects to get hurt and have a disappointing 2013 season; the biggest knock of all on Williams was that he was out of shape to start the season and seemed to be playing and moving without energy. He did look more like his old self in the Arizona Fall League, having dropped some weight and running sub-4.2 seconds down the line again while playing better in center field.

He is a potential Gold Glove defender in center, a future 70 on the 20-80 scale with good reads off the bat and bursting speed to chase down balls in the gaps. He's not a hacker at the plate, but he's not as selective as he should be; he can make contact so easily that he often chases pitches he should let go by and needs to be willing to work the count more to his advantage. Williams also had some mechanical issues at the plate in 2013, finishing too closed after stridin and sometimes getting his front hip out too early, all of which need to be reined in to maximize his production.

His ultimate outcome should be a high-average, doubles-power guy who might hit 15 homers in his best season, but even .290-plus with 50-60 walks and 10 homers with great defense is an above-average regular.

Top level: Double-A (Trenton) | 2013 rank: 35
88Matt Davidson, 3B
AGE: 23DOB: 3/26/91B/T: R/RHT: 6-2WT: 225
AVG: .280OBP: .350OPS: .831HR: 17SB: 1

Davidson has been on this list for four straight years and appears ready to take over as the White Sox's regular third baseman after they acquired him from Arizona in December.

He has a sweet right-handed swing: very simple and repeatable, with moderate loft in his finish. He is more of a 35-doubles candidate than a plus-power guy; he'll likely hit 15-20 homers per season if he doesn't get too pull-conscious, which, given his swing and approach would hurt him too much in the batting average and contact departments. He's an adequate third baseman, having worked substantially on his reads and getting his feet moving more quickly; you'd like to see him be more aggressive on balls in front of him -- especially ones he should play with one hand -- but he'll make the plays he has to make to be a solid defender.

He'll play at 23 years old in 2014 and still has a little development ahead of him -- mostly in pitch recognition -- but he should be an above-average regular at third base given a season or two there to continue to progress.

Top level: Majors (Arizona) | 2013 rank: 75
89Matt Barnes, RHP
AGE: 23DOB: 6/17/90B/T: R/RHT: 6-4WT: 205
W-L: 6-10ERA: 4.13IP: 113.1SO: 142BB: 48

Barnes had a very strong season in Double-A, missing a ton of bats and continuing to develop his curveball and changeup. He's still not at the point at which he's likely to have all three offerings working on the same day.

He shows a low-90s fastball and can add a little more when needed; hitters don't see the ball well out of his hand at all, so he gets a ton of swings and misses on his fastball, even within the zone. His curveball was much better in the second half of the season, a downer breaking ball that he didn't command early but was more effective with later in the season, while his changeup was probably better in the spring and might be a little too hard to be more than an average pitch. He continues to command his fastball better than his off-speed stuff and will probably spend most of 2014 in Triple-A working on the latter.

I see at least a mid-rotation starter here, with a chance to play above that if the secondary pitches come along. Guys who miss bats with fastball strikes like this are pretty uncommon, so I could be easily selling him short.

Top level: Triple-A (Pawtucket) | 2013 rank: 79
90Christian Bethancourt, C
AGE: 21DOB: 9/2/91B/T: R/RHT: 6-2WT: 215
AVG: .277OBP: .305OPS: .741HR: 12SB: 11

Bethancourt repeated Double-A after an inexcusably bad season at the plate there in 2012 but seemed to make enough minor adjustments at the plate to at least get to his power more often and project as an everyday catcher in the majors.

His calling card is his defense -- perhaps the best in the minors right now -- which is good enough to challenge Yadier Molina's for the best in MLB when the time comes. He's a plus-plus receiver with an 80-grade arm that is strong, quick and accurate. At the plate, Bethancourt has plus power, but he's a relentless hacker, with just 78 walks in 1,824 career plate appearances (4.2 percent, if you didn't want to bust out Excel for that), and that lack of patience has held back his ability to get pitches he can drive.

If he gets a full season in the majors in 2015, he'll probably post an OBP of less than .300 but with 10-15 homers and two wins worth of defensive value. And if he ever figures out how to take a couple of pitches, there's more power in there -- enough to make him a fringe All-Star.

Top level: Double-A (Mississippi) | 2013 rank: Unranked
91Kolten Wong, 2B
AGE: 23DOB: 10/10/90B/T: L/RHT: 5-9WT: 185
AVG: .303OBP: .369OPS: .835HR: 10SB: 20

Wong has one above-average tool: his ability to hit. He combines that with very good instincts, so, despite his lack of any plus tools, the Cardinals are comfortable penciling him in as their everyday second baseman for 2014.

He has a short swing with above-average bat speed, letting the ball travel well and going for contact rather than power. His walk rates in pro ball haven't been great, but he doesn't strike out much and, in general, has been successful at putting the ball in play rather than just working the count for walks. His defense is average at second base; his arm is just a tick below average and his footwork is OK, but the Cardinals have done a great job at developing defenders and have improved Wong's reads and lateral range to the point at which he's more than fringy at the position. He's pretty much an average runner but massively improved his baserunning acumen last season.

I see an average regular here -- maybe a tick above -- with a little bit of upside if he develops a better on-base ability after some time in the majors.

Top level: Majors (St. Louis) | 2013 rank: 96
92Brandon Nimmo, OF
AGE: 21DOB: 3/27/93B/T: L/RHT: 6-3WT: 185
AVG: .273OBP: .397OPS: .756HR: 2SB: 10

Nimmo was the Mets' first-round pick in 2011 out of a high school in Wyoming that didn't have a baseball team, which left him with limited experience, mostly Americal Legion ball and some showcases the summer before his senior year. Despite having several above-average tools, he didn't have a lot of reps against decent pitching and moved slowly through short-season ball before reaching the hitter's graveyard of Savannah this season.

He raked away from Savannah (.302/.421/.405) and showed great patience at the plate, a hugely positive marker for a player as inexperienced as he is. Nimmo has great rotation in his swing but can be a little long to the ball because he loads his hands high, behind his left shoulder. He's a fringe-average defender in center -- better with reads than with range -- but he'll be plus in either corner. The main areas for improvement for Nimmo are against left-handed pitchers -- against whom he was better this season but still not where he'll need to be to play every day -- and staying healthy, as he had a nagging wrist injury last summer on top of knee surgery in high school.

High-OBP guys with other tools, especially defensive ability, are pretty uncommon, and a healthy Nimmo should be an average to above-average regular by the time he's 24.

Top level: Low Class A (Savannah) | 2013 rank: Just missed
93Justin Nicolino, LHP
AGE: 22DOB: 11/22/91B/T: L/LHT: 6-3WT: 190
W-L: 8-4ERA: 3.11IP: 142.0SO: 95BB: 30

Nicolino is the same guy he was a season ago, but the failure to miss bats this season was a disappointment given his combination of command and stuff.

He has a quiet delivery, extremely easy to repeat, which allows him to throw all three of his pitches for strikes with above-average command that will end up plus. His fastball is just average, but his changeup is already plus, if not better, and he'll show a 55-grade curveball that is a little short but plays up because he can locate it well. He's also played around with a slider, which isn't a viable weapon for him yet but could give him another way to keep hitters off balance.

Nicolino keeps his walk rates low and posts good (not huge) groundball rates, so his floor is high, but his ceiling isn't more than a slightly above-average starter until he shows he can strike more hitters out.

Top level: Double-A (Jacksonville) | 2013 rank: 62
94Hunter Renfroe, OF
AGE: 22DOB: 1/28/92B/T: R/RHT: 6-1WT: 200
AVG: .271OBP: .308OPS: .767HR: 6SB: 2

Renfroe had two nondescript seasons at Mississippi State before breaking out in the spring of 2013, which helped push him to the top half of the first round of the draft once he had some results to go with his plus power and speed tools.

He is broad-shouldered with a solid build and has the plus-plus power you'd expect from a guy that size. His swing is very rotational, with a good stride into the ball and excellent follow-through to generate all of that power. He lifts his back foot off the ground at contact, which isn't ideal since it means he's hitting entirely off his front foot, something a few good big league hitters have done but that most don't.

He's a plus runner with a strong arm and should be an excellent defender in right, saving up to 10 runs per season between his glove and his arm. The question on Renfroe, and it's a significant one, is his pitch recognition and the resulting trouble he has making contact; he doesn't pick up spin that well, and pitchers can change speeds on him to get him off balance, all of which (plus fatigue) seemed to catch up to him in his very brief time in low Class A last season.

Right now, he projects as a low-average, power-speed guy, a No. 5- or 6-hole hitter who adds a lot of value on defense and on the bases -- but he'll have to improve his contact rates to get there.

Top level: Low Class A (Ft. Wayne) | 2013 rank: Ineligible
95Nick Ciuffo, C
AGE: 19DOB: 3/7/95B/T: L/RHT: 6-1WT: 205
AVG: .258OBP: .296OPS: .604HR: 0SB: 0

The best receiving catcher in the 2013 draft has some work to do in other aspects of his game but offers a high floor thanks to his good hands and above-average raw power.

As a hitter, Ciuffo has a simple left-handed swing, with very little stride and a consistent path. He rotates his hips well and has the hand strength to pull the ball, even when he rolls over his front foot through contact; that power makes him pull-conscious at times, something he'll have to avoid to keep his contact rate and batting average up.

Behind the plate, Ciuffo should be an excellent framer thanks to strong, yet soft, hands, and he's already improved his footwork since signing. He has plus arm strength but a long throwing stroke -- like he's winding up to pitch -- which he'll need to cut down to help him control the running game. I'm less concerned with his fielding than with his hit tool, as he has more work to do to use the whole field so he can keep his average up.

He's a potential above-average regular, a plus defender across the board who might hit .240-250 with 18-20 homers per season in a position at which a pulse is enough to put you above replacement level.

Top level: Rookie (Gulf Coast League) | 2013 rank: Ineligible
96Chris Anderson, RHP
AGE: 21DOB: 7/29/92B/T: R/RHT: 6-4WT: 215
W-L: 3-0ERA: 1.96IP: 46.0SO: 50BB: 24

The Dodgers' first-round pick in 2013 had an up-and-down spring at Jacksonville University -- blowing everyone away early in the spring with a plus slider and a fastball up to 95 mph -- but the coaching staff worked him hard and he couldn't maintain it through the end of the college season.

His velocity was better this summer after a brief layoff and some lighter use in pro ball, with his fastball touching 98 mph and his changeup solid-average or a tick below.

Anderson is physically imposing -- built for big workloads -- with a strong lower half and a good, long stride to the plate. He doesn't have the command or poise of system-mate Zach Lee but has a higher ceiling as a potential No. 2 starter if he can locate better and maintains his composure when something goes wrong behind him.

Top level: Low Class A (Great Lakes) | 2013 rank: Ineligible
97Josh Bell, OF
AGE: 21DOB: 8/14/92B/T: B/RHT: 6-3WT: 213
AVG: .279OBP: .353OPS: .806HR: 13SB: 1

Bell was on my 2012 list but suffered a season-ending knee injury that April and missed key development time, especially given how much work he had to do at the plate.

He is a switch-hitter with well-above-average power, even to the opposite field. He is far more advanced from the left side of the plate than the right side, from which his swing gets longer and his swing path is much less consistent. His ball-strike recognition was solid in high school and remains a strength; his walk rate was only fair in West Virginia last season, but part of that is the result of his strong plate coverage, not a lack of patience. His ability to drive pitches on the outer half out to left field when batting left-handed is unusual, especially for his age and for a hitter who doesn't strike out at an alarming rate.

The Pirates have kept Bell in right field, but he's far more likely to end up in left because he's a below-average runner with a below-average arm. If the bat comes along now that the lost season is behind him, though, he'll still profile as an average to above-average regular in left, getting on base at a .350-plus clip with 20-25 homers per season.

Top level: Low Class A (West Virginia) | 2013 rank: Unranked
98Tim Anderson, SS
AGE: 20DOB: 6/23/93B/T: R/RHT: 6-1WT: 180
AVG: .277OBP: .348OPS: .711HR: 1SB: 24

Praise be the White Sox for finally being aggressive with their top draft picks; while it didn't work out for Courtney Hawkins in 2013, a raw high school kid who should have gone to low Class A rather than high A, pushing the 20-year-old Anderson to low A got him needed at-bats against better pitching.

Anderson held his own there, striking out a little more than you'd like but showing off his gap power and speed without ever looking overmatched. He has a very quick but mostly flat swing, more from his hands than his hips or legs, so he can slap the ball all over but isn't well set up to drive it in any direction. He drifts a little on to his front foot, which, combined with the lack of hip rotation, makes it hard to get maximum force into any contact he makes. He's a plus runner, and questions about his defense while in junior college were less evident in pro ball as the White Sox helped clean up his arm stroke, and his footwork has already improved.

He's a great athlete overall and does have the strength to surprise us down the road with 15-homer pop, but it's more likely he settles in as a slap-hitter/speed guy who plays above-average defense at short.

Top level: Low Class A (Kannapolis) | 2013 rank: Ineligible
99Jose Peraza, SS
AGE: 19DOB: 4/30/94B/T: R/RHT: 6-0WT: 165
AVG: .288OBP: .341OPS: .712HR: 1SB: 64

Peraza is an above-average defensive shortstop and a 70-grade runner who played well as a 19-year-old in the South Atlantic League in 2013 but will have to show he can hit for enough power to keep up that performance into the big leagues.

He has a very short, direct swing with almost no load and very little follow-through and has posted very high contact rates across his three seasons in pro ball but virtually no power -- a concern because, by the time a player like this reaches Double-A, pitchers will start to try to pound him inside with velocity, and he needs to find enough strength to fight that stuff off.

Peraza is slight, but not weak, and might end up with 10-homer power if he can relax his swing's finish and get more loft in it. In the field, Peraza has very quick feet and good actions for a shortstop; he projects as a 65 or better defender at second, where he might end up because of Andrelton Simmons' presence at shortstop and where Peraza would be a potential All-Star.

Top level: Low Class A (Rome) | 2013 rank: Unranked
100Rob Kaminsky, LHP
AGE: 19DOB: 9/2/94B/T: R/LHT: 5-11WT: 191
W-L: 0-3ERA: 3.68IP: 22.0SO: 28BB: 9

Kaminsky was one of the most polished high school arms in last year's draft, boasting already impressive stuff and good feel for pitching to make up for his lack of projection.

The New Jersey prep product sits at 90-92 mph with his fastball as a starter now, but his current money pitch is a grade-65 curveball with tight rotation and good depth; he has some feel for a changeup, but it's well behind the other two pitches due largely to lack of use in high school. He has a strong lower half and makes good use of it with a long "step-over" stride, moderate hip rotation and an arm swing by which he pronates his forearm quickly after an early Lincecum-like plunge. He's athletic for his build and finishes well over his front side, which he has to do to avoid the plague of the undersized starting pitcher -- a fly ball tendency from a fastball that doesn't sink or tail.

He doesn't offer any physical projection and will probably peak in the 90-94 mph range at best, but hitters say he's extremely hard to hit because they don't see the ball and can't distinguish between the fastball and the curve. If that changeup comes along, he's a potential No. 3 starter, and he should fare very well in the low minors as he's learning.

Top level: Rookie (Gulf Coast) | 2013 rank: Ineligible
post #19712 of 73441
Foltynewicz, which is Polish for "throws gas,"

The Astros have some serious prospects on the way. smokin.gif

And it is well deserved after these couple years of misery.
post #19713 of 73441
Instagram. | just my art and photography. #NT will follow back. Also Flickr.
Instagram. | just my art and photography. #NT will follow back. Also Flickr.
post #19714 of 73441
Thread Starter 
A.J. Burnett: New and Best Option.
Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
I wrote a little bit about A.J. Burnett late last week. The article is here, and it’s about the significance to the Pittsburgh Pirates of Burnett deciding to either retire or return to Pittsburgh for another go. I figured it would be a hugely significant decision either way, and I wrote it like that because things appeared like that: The most recent word was that Burnett would either come back for the same team or hang it up for good to spend time with his family. There was no real indication Burnett would be willing to consider other employers if he returned.

So Travis Sawchik brought some news on Tuesday. The good news for the Pirates: Burnett intends to pitch in 2014. The bad news for the Pirates: Burnett intends to explore other organizations. Which doesn’t mean he’s written the Pirates off, but now they’ll have competition. Burnett’s officially a pursuable free-agent now, and while he could still end up back in the same uniform, he’s got his eyes and ears open. And that changes a whole lot of things.

Or maybe it just changes one thing — that being the market for free-agent starting pitching. But then that market is important to a handful of players and to a handful of teams. There are two big things to consider. For one, the Pirates declined to extend to Burnett a qualifying offer, so he can be signed without the sacrifice of a draft pick. And secondly, Burnett might suddenly be the best free-agent starter left. Where the rest of baseball was thinking about Ubaldo Jimenez, Ervin Santana, Bronson Arroyo and a few others, Burnett might be the best bet to have a good year in 2014.

But…. Burnett’s old! Totally. He’s had elbow problems in the very distant past. With age comes a certain degree of unpredictability, and every passing day brings Burnett closer to the day on which he can no longer throw successfully in the major leagues. Yet Arroyo’s just as old. Santana’s a year removed from being a salary dump by a team in need of starting pitching. Jimenez is a year removed from being a mechanical mess with almost triple-digit walks. On the remaining market, there’s security and dependability to be found nowhere. What we do have are performance numbers, and they paint a certain picture.

Burnett seemed to turn his career around when he landed with the Pirates a couple seasons ago. Over that span, he made 61 starts. Among starters, he ranked in the top tenth in WAR. He was also in the top tenth in adjusted FIP and xFIP, and only three other starters generated a higher groundball rate. If ace pitchers get strikeouts while limiting walks and dingers, Burnett has recently done two of the three, and it’s not like his walks have been out of control. Around his Pirates numbers, you find the names of other really good pitchers.

Santana and Jimenez are looking to cash in on really successful 2013 campaigns. Burnett beat them in Wins Above Replacement. And Burnett was also good in 2012, when Santana and Jimenez were wrecks. if you care more about looking forward than about looking back, well, for one thing, a big part of looking forward is looking back. But also, Burnett is projected to be the best starter out of the free-agent pool, at least according to Steamer. Santana and Jimenez are projected to be fine, but Burnett is projected to be legitimately good.

That’s enough about math; enough about projections. We can be satisfied just calling the starters reasonably good. Burnett stands to be a shorter-term acquisition, but that kind of works to a team’s benefit more than detriment with free agents older than 30. And as noted, Burnett doesn’t have the draft pick attached the way that Santana and Jimenez do. Teams are valuing those draft picks highly, maybe too highly, and that’s a reason why Matt Garza signed first. That’s a reason why some teams have looked at Arroyo as an alternative. Give up a pick for a free-agent, and you’re basically getting the player for money and a prospect. Burnett would require no such prospect.

It might scare some teams off that Burnett only turned things around when he returned to the National League. There’s some potential legitimacy in that concern. One might also recall that Burnett spent 2013 pitching to quality catcher Russell Martin, and Martin is documented to be an excellent framer. But Burnett was also successful in 2012 pitching to Rod Barajas, so it’s not like framing can explain away everything. Burnett has pitched well to a good catcher and to a bad one.

One thing we don’t know is just how open Burnett will be to pitching somewhere other than Pittsburgh. If he wants to stay in the vicinity of his family on the East Coast, he’s probably not bolting for Seattle or Oakland. He’s not a true free-agent in the usual sense of the term. But if he’s willing to pitch for other teams then that’s obviously somewhat bad news for Santana and Jimenez and the rest, because he represents increased supply with constant demand. He might now be another option for the Toronto Blue Jays. He’s clearly an option for the Baltimore Orioles. The Philadelphia Phillies have been rumored, and there are others who could check in. At the top of the class, Santana and Jimenez have a little less leverage because now there’ll be a little less desperation.

The thought that keeps crossing my mind is that the Orioles could somewhat salvage a nothing offseason by plucking Burnett out of free agency. He’s better than Arroyo, he’s probably better than Santana and Jimenez, and he wouldn’t cost a pick. He’d make a bigger impact than signing Nelson Cruz or Kendrys Morales, probably, and again, he wouldn’t cost a pick. Maybe the Orioles could even swing a pair of moves, with Burnett being the more important one. That’s a team with holes on it. I don’t know how much money they really have to spend, but they seem like the most likely Option B for Burnett after the Pirates, who couldn’t even afford to offer Burnett $14 million. The Orioles might be able to make the biggest move left.

Or maybe they’ll sit it out. Or maybe Burnett will end up back with the Pirates after all. The need is there, and the Pirates are close enough to true playoff contention. The only thing we know for sure at the moment is that Burnett is going to pitch instead of retire. But as a pitcher without a current team, Burnett sure changes the look of the free-agent landscape. Somehow, A.J. Burnett, of all people, has been more consistent than the previously thought-of top of the class.

Are We Overrating the Nationals Again?
Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
A year ago, pretty much everyone picked the Nationals to win the NL East. Why not? They’d won 98 games in 2012, and they’d done so without full seasons from Bryce Harper, Stephen Strasburg, or Jayson Werth. They’d done so without a real center fielder, since Rick Ankiel and Roger Bernadina had started 64 games there while Harper was still in the minors or otherwise unavailable, a problem that newcomer Denard Span was intended to fix. They’d also won 98 without Rafael Soriano, a seemingly luxurious addition who had been added to a bullpen that was already solid, and without Dan Haren, who was a risk but had many years of excellent performance behind him and wasn’t being counted on to be more than the fourth starter.

No one wanted to say that the Nationals were going to top 100 wins, but plenty of us thought it. In a division with only one other serious contender, they seemed like a lock. They seemed like the safest bet in the game.
It didn’t work out that way, because it never does. The Nationals didn’t win 100 games, or anything close to it. Besieged by injuries to Harper, Werth, and Ross Detwiler, as well as an atrocious first half from Haren and big steps back from Danny Espinosa and Drew Storen, Washington was still a .500 team into late August. That they managed to even get to a final record of 86-76 was due to a furious 18-9 September and big contributions from a healthy Werth and a repaired Haren, but they didn’t come close to the playoffs and ended the year as one of 2013′s biggest disappointments.

A year later, we’re doing it again. The Nationals are routinely appearing on lists of “best winters” or “most improved,” largely due to the heist that added Doug Fister to what is now one of baseball’s most fearsome rotation foursomes without subtracting much in return. The moves to import lefty reliever Jerry Blevins and backup outfielder Nate McLouth weren’t quite so splashy, but each should add a small amount of value, and that great September run certainly didn’t hurt. Just yesterday, Buster Olney named the Nationals as his pick to win the NL East, and he’s not wrong; I’d probably do the same, because Fister is great, the East still only has one other good team, and I don’t fully trust an Atlanta lineup that didn’t replace Brian McCann and still has to depend on B.J. Upton and Dan Uggla.

Rank Team WAR
16 Pirates 36.9
17 Giants 36.6
18 Nationals 36.5
19 Mariners 36.5
20 Orioles 33.5
By all accounts, the 2014 Nationals are going to be the best team in the division. And yet, I can’t help but remember what happened last year and look at our Depth Charts, which have a decidedly less rosy outlook on Washington. The Nationals are seen as being essentially tied for 17th with the Giants, who lost 88 games last year and didn’t do much to improve this winter outside of Tim Hudson and Michael Morse. They’re seen as being equal to the Mariners, who lost 91 games and had to add Robinson Cano just to get to this point. They’re below the Yankees, Blue Jays, and Rockies, who didn’t make the playoffs last year and probably aren’t going to be on many preseason predictions lists this year.

Obviously, in order to put stock into that, you have to believe in two things: Steamer projections and the playing time estimates entered by our depth chart team, comprised of FanGraphs authors. (I manage the NL West, so you know where to go if anything seems off to you.) Neither of those are infallible, though I think both do a pretty good job, so you’re free to put as much or as little faith into those projections as you like.

For my part, I’m not comfortable just pushing those numbers aside, so let’s look into this. Are we completely overrating the Nationals again? Or is it something else? Eyeballing the lineup projections, most seem about right, with maybe a few sticking points. Adam LaRoche at 1.1 WAR isn’t unfair as he heads into his age-34 season, not when he’s been worth less than a win in three of the last four years. (The Fan Scouting Report has him at 1.7 WAR at the moment, so you apparently don’t feel too differently.) Ryan Zimmerman may yet have another elite season in him, but for now he’s projected to essentially repeat 2013, and I think we all know at some point in the near future he’s no longer a third baseman.

Werth at 2.0 WAR definitely feels low, but then again, he’ll be 35 years old and he’s seemingly always fighting injuries, so part of that projection is the fact that he’s only pegged for 476 plate appearances right now, as well as that he was worth only three wins total in 2011-12. (What the projection systems can’t know, of course, is the change in his batting stance last summer that seemed to kick off his fantastic tear.) If anything is going to stand out there to Nationals fans, it’s going to be shortstop Ian Desmond, projected for 3.0 WAR after back-to-back seasons of 5.0 WAR. Steamer expects him to give back some of his value on offense — and he largely didn’t maintain his 2012 power in 2013 — as well as being less valuable on defense. I’m not going to put money on another five win season from Desmond, but if you feel that’s a little light, I wouldn’t argue all that strenuously with you about it.

When you flip over to the rotation, some of the risk begins to appear. The top four, with Gio Gonzalez and Jordan Zimmermann joining Strasburg and Fister, is one of the top quartets in the game. Argue for the Dodgers, maybe, or the Tigers — less so now that Fister is gone, of course — or maybe the Cardinals, but this is a projected group that’s tough to beat:

Stephen Strasburg 186.0 9.9 2.8 0.7 .305 73.2 % 3.13 2.90 4.0
Gio Gonzalez 180.0 8.9 3.4 0.7 .304 71.1 % 3.68 3.37 2.9
Jordan Zimmermann 174.0 7.0 2.0 0.9 .305 70.3 % 3.77 3.54 2.5
Doug Fister 164.0 7.3 1.9 0.6 .310 70.8 % 3.32 3.09 3.1
…but then, that’s what we said last year too, and when Detwiler couldn’t answer the bell — he made just one start after June — the team’s lack of rotation depth was exposed. Ross Ohlendorf and rookies Taylor Jordan and Tanner Roark actually pitched well in limited time, but so far 2014 looks like the exact same situation:

Tanner Roark 122.0 6.9 2.7 0.8 .306 69.7 % 3.93 3.68 1.5
Ross Detwiler 28.0 6.0 2.7 0.9 .306 68.1 % 4.33 4.00 0.2
Taylor Jordan 28.0 6.1 2.5 0.7 .307 68.2 % 4.06 3.74 0.3
Ross Ohlendorf 28.0 7.2 2.9 1.1 .299 73.5 % 3.91 4.13 0.2
Danny Rosenbaum 28.0 5.2 3.7 1.0 .302 66.7 % 4.99 4.65 0.0
Chris Young 21.0 5.7 3.0 1.5 .291 71.1 % 4.88 5.08 -0.1
Nate Karns 21.0 8.6 4.1 0.8 .301 70.6 % 4.08 3.87 0.2
Roark’s not a bad guy to have around — I assume I don’t need to tell you to ignore the 7-1 and 1.51 ERA in limited time last year, largely against lousy competition — but ideally, he’s someone who steps in when you need a replacement, not someone you’re counting on. Detwiler plans to compete to win his job back; he’s also been healthy enough to throw more than 75 innings exactly once in his career, and was one of just six pitchers last year to throw at least 70 frames and strike out fewer than five per nine. As for the rest? If Young or Rosenbaum is actually seeing signficant time, something has gone extremely wrong.

Maybe this is a landing spot for A.J. Burnett, if reports that he’ll pitch for a team that isn’t the Pirates (but presumably not far from his Baltimore home) are true. Maybe, as illustrated in Jeff Sullivan’s article earlier this week, perhaps the additional win or two or three that an Ervin Santana or Ubaldo Jimenez could add makes Washington the ever-present “mystery team” who finds more value in that small boost than other teams might. Yes, a draft pick would be lost, but clearly Nats GM Mike Rizzo hasn’t been averse to the surprise January move, as we saw last year when he grabbed Soriano out of seemingly nowhere, and Detwiler might be better off a second lefty in the pen than he’d ever be as a mediocre starter. (For the record, I wrote something very similar about the possibility of them going after Kyle Lohse last year, for nearly identical reasons. Nats fans were not pleased, to put it lightly. I wonder if that’d be the same reaction now.)

Back to the original topic, when we make division predictions again, I’m probably going to pick Washington. It’s hard not to, with the idea of Harper and Werth and adding Fister to that rotation, especially when the Mets, Marlins, and Phillies look like disasters and the Braves have issues of their own. With everything running at full speed, this could very well be the 100 win team we thought we’d see last year. But it’s hard to wash over how injury-prone their offensive stars seem to be (toss in Anthony Rendon‘s ankles to that conversation), or how boom-or-bust LaRoche is, or how little they have behind catcher Wilson Ramos, or how much of a question mark their rotation depth could be, and so that pick is going to get made with just a little more hesitation on my part. Adding another starter, even with how talented that rotation appears to be, would go a long way towards alleviating that.

A Data-Centric View on Why the Phillies May Want to Avoid Losing.
Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
On Sunday, I wrote about the Phillies offseason and how their seemingly wishy-washy approach to rebuilding may, possibly, potentially, could be perfectly rational. Buried within the article was a throwaway comment. I said:

The fans in Philadelphia simply don’t have patience for losers.

Commenters rightly pointed out that this is true of all teams. Instead of letting it go, I argued that Philly fans seem to respond more elastically than fans of other cities.

Perhaps this is a good time to share my credentials. I grew up 20 minutes from the Philadelphia sports complex. I had full season tickets at the Vet during those years when announced attendance was around 13,000 and actual attendance appeared closer to 3,000. The section security guard would sit down and watch part of the game with us because there was nothing to guard. He would go in the dugout between innings and come back with bazooka gum and sunflower seeds, sometimes with autographs. Those were my favorite years of baseball – between 1995 and 2001 - and my hometown Phillies were godawfulterrible.

I understand that there are many types of fans in Philadelphia, as there are many types of fans everywhere. There are fair weather fans, die hard fans, and plenty who fit somewhere in between. I recognize that it’s disingenuous to say “I grew up a Phillies fan, so I can say what I want about them.” I admit, it smells a little bit like “I have a black friend so it’s okay that I’m about to say something racist.” But I’ve also lived in four major league cities and Philadelphia is quite noticeably different in its fandom.

In the previously referenced article, commenter TeddyWestside said:

Sure some people will “run away” until we have a contender, but those aren’t real fans. Those are the people that go to games because it’s the “thing to do.” EVERY franchise has fans like that, so don’t you act like we are the only ones…Sure, when the team underperforms I am not going to 20 games a year. I’ll still go to a handful, but I’ll watch EVERY other game at home. Same goes for the other fans. We won’t spend our hard earned money to go watch a team lose, but bet your *** we support from our couches and bars. So don’t act like we are frontrunners, because you are way off base.

No, I’m not Jimmy Rollins and I’m not accusing you of being a front runner. This is a perfectly rational thing to do. When I attended those games at the Vet, my parents were able to buy excellent seats for $12 apiece. Similar seats now cost over $100 apiece. It’s not financially practical to attend ballgames unless you derive a lot of utility (happiness) from attending. Winning and playoff contention are an important element of that utility for most people.

TeddyWestside’s comment does strike at the heart of the matter. From the team’s perspective, the only thing that matters is that fans are spending less of their discretionary income on the team. Teddy has identified himself as the common man’s fan. Assuming this is true, he has also identified that his spending on the Phillies has/will decline due to the team’s poor play. I assume he would agree that the more the team loses, the less he would spend. TW’s still spending some money on the team, but there are actual bandwagon fans who stop spending altogether. This hurts the team’s bottom line, and it’s part of the reason why I consider it plausible that their current offseason strategy is the best one available for their unique circumstances.

I wanted to test this a little more vigorously using attendance data. Unfortunately, the computer I have with me doesn’t have anything more advanced than OpenOffice Calc, so we’ll have to keep things basic. I gathered attendance data from Baseball Reference on every National League team dating back to 1996. I restricted it to NL teams because I had to do a fair amount of manual data entry, and I included the Astros but dropped the Expos/Nationals. I then limited the list to seasons where attendance dropped by at least 10 percent. That left me with 33 seasons. The Cubs and Cardinals did not have any seasons where attendance declined by 10 percent.

Before reviewing the results, let’s make the shortcomings clear. This is a very simplistic analysis that ignores many factors. Since the data is not prepared properly, we can’t use it to draw meaningful conclusions. What we can do is take the information and form hypotheses to be tested later. Another shortcoming is that I’ve used attendance as a proxy for revenue. And keep in mind, my arbitrary cutoff was 10 percent, which is a large drop in attendance. Some teams saw long term trends that didn’t eclipse the 10 percent threshold. Lastly, no effort was spent in examining how quickly teams recover from bad seasons. In short, there are a lot of ways to slice and dice this data, but for the purpose of today, we’ll stick to a narrow focus.

As for the table headings, year is the year, team is the team, W’s Yr X is that year’s win total, W’s Yr X-1 is the previous season’s win total, and Atnd/gm is the attendance per game. I used per game attendance because the Phillies had one 84 home game season in the sample.

Year Team W’s Yr X-1 W’s Yr X Change in Wins Atnd/gm Yr Pct Change in Atnd Note
1997 Philadelphia Phillies 67 68 1 18403 -0.173
2000 Philadelphia Phillies 77 65 -12 19911 -0.116
2005 Philadelphia Phillies 86 88 2 32905 -0.180 New Park 2004
2013 Philadelphia Phillies 81 73 -8 37190 -0.155
2001 Atlanta Braves 95 88 -7 34858 -0.127
1998 Florida Marlins 92 54 -38 21363 -0.268
1999 Florida Marlins 54 64 10 17118 -0.199
2000 Florida Marlins 64 79 15 15041 -0.121
2013 Miami Marlins 69 62 -7 19584 -0.285 New Park 2012
2003 New York Mets 75 66 -9 26757 -0.227
2009 New York Mets 89 70 -19 39118 -0.216 New Park 2009
2010 New York Mets 70 79 9 31602 -0.192 New Park 2009
2002 Houston Astros 93 84 -9 31078 -0.133 New Park 2002
2009 Houston Astros 86 74 -12 31124 -0.104
2011 Houston Astros 76 56 -20 25519 -0.113
2012 Houston Astros 56 55 -1 19849 -0.222
2001 Cincinnati Reds 85 66 -19 23207 -0.262
2005 Cincinnati Reds 76 73 -3 23696 -0.161
2009 Cincinnati Reds 74 78 4 21579 -0.151
2002 Milwaukee Brewers 68 56 -12 24311 -0.299
2013 Milwaukee Brewers 83 74 -9 31248 -0.106
2002 Pittsburgh Pirates 62 72 10 22312 -0.267 New Park 2001
1999 Arizona Diamondbacks 65 100 35 37280 -0.164 2nd Yr of Franchise
2003 Arizona Diamondbacks 98 84 -14 34636 -0.123
2004 Arizona Diamondbacks 84 51 -33 31106 -0.102
2005 Arizona Diamondbacks 51 77 26 25425 -0.183
2009 Arizona Diamondbacks 81 70 -11 26281 -0.152
2002 Colorado Rockies 73 73 33800 -0.135
2005 Colorado Rockies 68 67 -1 23634 -0.181
2011 Los Angeles Dodgers 80 82 2 36236 -0.176
2008 San Diego Padres 89 63 -26 29970 -0.130
2009 San Diego Padres 63 75 12 23699 -0.209
2008 San Francisco Giants 71 72 1 35356 -0.112
The table is sortable, I left it sorted by team by year as the default. From this view, I’m mainly interested in the teams with multi-season drops in attendance, namely the Marlins, Mets, Astros, Padres, and Diamondbacks. Their experiences share some common characteristics.

After winning the World Series in 1997, the Marlins held a fire sale and lost over 100 games in 1998. Attendance fell precipitately that season. The team then improved it’s record by 10 games but saw a further drop in attendance. They only won 64 games, so that’s understandable. The next season, they won 79 games, yet still hemorrhaged fans. Our research on win curves and the link between winning and revenue suggests that they should have seen increased revenue as they moved from 54 to 79 wins over two seasons. With what we actually observed, they probably actually earned less revenue season to season.

Despite our assumptions about win curves and dollars per win, this isn’t a counter intuitive finding. The Marlins telegraphed their bad hand by conducting a fire sale, but most teams try to decline more quietly, thus milking a few extra dollars out of the fan base. It can take time for the common fan to realize that Ryan Howard isn’t a franchise cornerstone. Around here, we’ve known that for years, but there are still a ton of fans who are only just beginning to suspect.

The Mets are a weird one because they really screwed up with their new park. They opened their doors in teeth of the housing crisis, overpriced their seats, and were embroiled in the Bernie Madoff fiasco. The team did see a sharp performance decline, but the drop in attendance began due to other factors.

The Astros of the late 2000′s had a lot in common with today’s Phillies. They’re both formerly strong rosters who hung onto their core too long and began to decline. The Astros finally bit the bullet and went for the full rebuild. Attendance plummeted the first two seasons of the rebuild as the team dropped from 76 to 56 to 55 wins. Attendance between 2012 and 2013 was stable, indicating that the team has hit a trough. The Phillies already saw a sharp decline in attendance when dropping from 81 to 73 wins. A full rebuild could probably bring them to wherever their trough is within a couple seasons. Getting back out could be a problem.

The Diamondbacks story looks similar to the Marlins. Attendance dropped after winning the World Series. The team was actually decent in that first season, but then fell apart to win only 51 games. The following season, they won 26 more games but still lost droves of fans.

The Padres are another weird one. Ownership issues coincided with the team’s collapse which likely exacerbated the decline in attendance. Their attendance did jump about 3,000 fans per game with their 90 win season in 2010 and hasn’t moved since then despite three straight losing efforts.

Keeping in mind that a firm conclusion should not be reached with this data, there is some evidence that the decision to engage in a full rebuild could affect team finances for many seasons. Since the Phillies are locked into most of their core through the 2016 and 2017 seasons, it might be financially premature to begin a rebuild. If attendance declined to around 19,000 per game, like with the Astros, the Phillies could have trouble meeting payroll.

Some might suggest that they trade their pricey contracts, but that might not be an option. Cole Hamels may return a decent prospect from a rich team like the Dodgers, but what other expensive player could return an asset in trade? To trade Howard, Papelbon, or even Lee, the Phillies would need to take on extra salary. We can probably assume that attendance would take a nose dive if the Phillies waved the white flag by trading away their aging stars. If they have to take on extra salary in the process, they may end up fielding an Astros-style roster of minimum salary players, but with three times that cost in payments to other teams.

Businesses will often attempt to maximize revenue in the short run and worry about profit later. A full rebuild effectively minimizes revenue. For that reason alone, the Phillies might find it more financially prudent to rebuild the slow way. A few first overall picks might help speed up the rebuild process, but Philadelphia has experienced first hand that it’s no guarantee. After this analysis, I’m still inclined to say that the Phillies might be doing the right thing. Who knows. I am fairly confident in saying that rebuilding is not a one-size-fits-all activity, and we should stop assuming otherwise.

Spending $50 Million on Two Very Different Pitchers.
Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
Early in the off-season, Ricky Nolasco signed with the Minnesota Twins for $49 million over four years. Over the weekend, Matt Garza signed with the Milwaukee Brewers for $50 million over four years. While these contracts are nearly identical, the two pitchers could hardly be more different.

Over the last three seasons, Nolasco has averaged 199 innings per year, while Garza’s averaged just 152 innings per year. Nolasco has been reliably durable, avoiding the disabled list entirely for each of the last three seasons, while Garza has had three separate stints on the DL since the start of the 2011 season. Nolasco’s strongest selling point is his health track record; health is Garza’s weak point.

Nolasco has his own weak points, however. He’s consistently underperformed his FIP for nearly his entire career, as his 108 ERA-/92 FIP- is the largest spread of any active starting pitcher in baseball at the moment. While Nolasco’s BB/K/HR rates are all solid, he has a long history of giving up hits on balls in play and failing to strand runners, so his run prevention has never matched up with the estimators. Garza, on the other hand, has a below average BABIP for his career, and has a slightly positive ERA/FIP differential, though that hasn’t held true over the last three years.

On a per-innings basis, Garza is pretty clearly the better pitcher, but Nolasco has traditionally given his teams more innings. The choice between the two could be generally described as the age-old trade-off between quality and quantity. And the market has apparently determined that the difference in durability exactly offsets Garza’s difference in per-innings performance, as they signed the same basic contract in the same off-season with neither having free agent compensation attached.

That brings up the obvious question: is the market right?

Let’s start with what we know about predicting pitcher injuries. Jeff Zimmermann has done a lot of work on disabled list forecasts, and last year, the model he created to forecast DL stints did astonishingly well. If you look at the data he’s produced for 2014 DL predictions, you’ll see that, on average, starting pitchers are forecast to have a 38% chance of landing on the disabled list, with the spread ranging from roughly 30% — guys like Madison Bumgarner, Clayton Kershaw, and Mike Leake — up to around 50% — Tim Hudson, Brandon McCarthy, and yes, Matt Garza — at the higher end of things. Bartolo Colon stands out as something of an outlier, getting a 64% chance of landing on the DL, but the range is mostly 30%-50%, as 113 of the 127 pitchers fall within that span.

Zimmermann’s model definitely labels Garza as high-risk and Nolasco as low-risk, as Garza is forecast for a 51% chance of landing on the DL at some point in 2014, while Nolasco is just at 34%. This is a big gap, certainly, but what does it translate into in terms of expected number of starts going forward? Well, pulling Zimmermann’s data for disabled list stints by pitchers in 2013, I found that the average DL stint for a hurler last year was 69 days, though that is significantly inflated by pitchers who missed the entire season after recovering from surgery. The median is probably a better number to use here, since most pitchers who land on the DL don’t end up having season-ending surgery, so we’ll use the 51 day median instead of the 69 day average.

Taking Zimmermann’s DL forecast percentages and applying them to the 51 day median length of a DL stint for a pitcher, we’d find that his model would suggest Garza may be in line for something like 26 days on the DL next year. That’s basically a whole month of the season, and would cost Garza roughly five starts, plus some diminished performance on either side of the DL stay, so maybe the real cost is a loss of six or seven starts. That’s 20% of the season, and with that kind of risk, it’s easy to see why teams weren’t exactly bidding through the roof to land Garza.

However, Nolasco is still a pitcher, and even previously durable pitchers get injured too, so the difference isn’t five extra starts for Nolasco. The model projected him for a 34% chance of landing on the DL, after all, so applying the median DL stint of 51 days, it would suggest 17 DL days for Nolasco in 2014. Instead of a 26 day difference, we’re actually looking at a nine day difference in DL forecasts, or essentially two starts of the season.

Two extra starts. That’s roughly 12 extra innings. Even if you used the average DL stint instead of the median (to account for the higher chance of Garza actually needing surgery and missing the whole year), you’re still only looking at a 12 day DL difference, which is still only 2-3 extra starts over the course of the year. We’re talking about a forecast health difference of less than 20 innings, based on Zimmermann’s model at least.

If we’re really only looking at a 20 inning difference between a very high risk and a very low risk starting pitcher, then it seems that perhaps the price discount that injury prone starting pitchers are taking might perhaps be too high. After all, over 160 innings at something close to their career norms, Garza should be expected to allow roughly 70 runs, while Nolasco would be expected to give up something closer to 85 runs in 180 innings. Getting 20 extra innings and giving up 15 additional runs in the process isn’t so beneficial to winning games; any generic Triple-A arm can make up 20 innings while giving up fewer than 15 runs in the process.

Of course, these numbers are all estimates, and teams have far better access to medical data than we do. It is probably telling that a bunch of teams who have had Matt Garza aren’t interested in having him back, and they’re the ones who know the most about the red flags that doctors have raised. However, projecting future health is still mostly guesswork, and it seems like it’s possible that teams are putting too much of an emphasis on formerly durable pitchers and not enough on the quality of the pitcher when he is on the mound.

What If Mike Trout Had Average Speed?
Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
Mike Trout is a dude. The total package. He combines the abilities to hit for average and power and play impact defense at a premium position, with top of the charts speed that he uses both prolifically and efficiently. While metrics now exist to measure the effect of speed on player defense and baserunning, it is less simple to measure how speed contributes to one’s batting line. Let’s attempt to separate the impact of Trout’s speed on his slash line, and then do the same with a very different player with whom Trout is often compared, for MVP reasons.

Here is Trout’s 2013 performance by major batted ball types. (Popups are included in overall totals, but are not listed separately for purposes of this exercise.)

Trout Mike FLY 138 31.29% 0.362 1.080 111 191
LD 107 24.26% 0.645 0.944 114 106
GB 174 39.46% 0.356 0.391 93 228
ALL BIP 0.410 0.711 178
The 3rd and 4th columns list AVG and SLG by BIP type, the 5th lists the frequency of each type relative to the MLB average, scaled to 100, and the 6th lists run value production by batted ball type, also relative to the MLB average, again scaled to 100. Trout’s strengths are numerous and obvious – he hits plenty of fly balls, many of them hit very hard, and lots of line drives too. His production on fly balls and ground balls are both about double the MLB average, thanks to his exceptional power/speed combination.

To determine how much his speed contributes to these figures, we must do both of the following:

1) Approximate how many extra hits his speed provided, and
2) Approximate how many additional total bases on existing hits his speed provided

The answer to the first point lies entirely within his population of ground balls. MLB hitters batted .237 and slugged .257 on ground balls in 2013. Trout, because of his speed, should be expected to exceed those marks, but based on his hard and soft ground ball rates, not nearly to the extent of the .356 AVG and .391 SLG he actually posted. Based solely upon the authority with which he hit the ball on the ground, Trout’s projected AVG-SLG line on grounders in 2013 would have been .267-.287. That means that Trout got approximately 16 more hits and 20 more total bases than he would have if he had league average speed.

Now let’s move on to the line drives and fly balls. Here we are not talking about adding to or subtracting from the hit total. Instead we are looking for the difference between the actual and projected spread of singles-doubles-triples within that batted ball population, based upon the relative authority with which the player being evaluated hits the ball. Trout’s isolated power on line drives is pretty much in line with what it should be, but the average hitter with this level of isolated power hit more than the single line drive homer that Trout hit in 2013. What the average player is accomplishing by hitting the ball out of the park, Trout is doing while keeping the ball inside it. Trout’s actual 1B-2B-3B line on liners was 43-21-4, the typical spread by a hitter with similar power would be 43-24-1 – that’s a difference of three total bases attributable to Trout’s speed. Essentially, three doubles turned into triples. Let’s do the same with fly balls. Trout’s actual 1B-2B-3B split on flyballs was 8-11-5. The typical split for an MLB hitter with similar projected isolated power on fly balls would be 9-14-1, resulting in a net difference of five total bases attributable to Trout’s speed.

Overall, we’ve come up with 16 additional hits and 28 additional total bases attributable to Mike Trout’s speed. Let’s look at what this does to his overall BIP batting statistics by category below.

Trout Mike FLY 138 31.29% 0.362 1.043 111 183
LD 107 24.26% 0.645 0.916 114 103
GB 174 39.46% 0.267 0.287 93 126
ALL BIP 0.376 0.650 150
Trout’s overall slash line goes from .323-.432-.557 to .295-.409-.509 – still pretty darned good. It’s pretty handy, however, to be able to isolate the impact of his speed upon his raw numbers. This enables to separately age his pure batting ability and the speed component as the years go by. Trout is obviously a great hitter with or without his speed, but there are other speed-oriented players whose offensive value essentially disappears once you peel away the speed. Past and present BABIP overachievers like Ichiro Suzuki or Michael Bourn, among others, could be more accurately evaluated using such an approach.

As a point of reference, let’s do the same exercise for another great hitter, who just happens to be a slow baserunner. He also just happens to be Trout’s immediate neighbor in the MVP voting the last two years, Miguel Cabrera.

Cabrera Miguel FLY 141 31.06% 0.475 1.475 110 347
LD 107 23.57% 0.672 0.836 111 100
GB 174 38.33% 0.283 0.289 90 136
ALL BIP 0.415 0.762 194
The fundamentals are actually quite comparable to Trout’s. Their fly ball and line drive frequency are almost identical, while Cabrera’s fly ball production is far superior, mainly because his ability to pull the ball in the air is far advanced compared to his younger counterpart. (Pulling the baseball in general will be examined in greater detail in an upcoming post.) Cabrera’s actual ground ball production is much lower than Trout’s, at least before we adjust for speed.

Cabrera’s hard and soft grounder marks are both far superior to Trout’s, and just about anyone else’s for that matter. So much so that Cabrera’s projected AVG-SLG on grounders would be .337-.368, meaning that his lack of speed cost him nine hits and 13 total bases on ground balls alone in 2013. Cabrera’s actual isolated power on line drives is a relatively meager .164, a little more than half of Trout’s actual mark. This makes little sense, as Cabrera impacts the baseball even more than Trout does. Cabrera’s actual 1B-2B-3B split on liners was 63-13-0; the typical spread for a hitter with similar power would be 48-27-1, for a whopping loss of 16 total bases attributable to Cabrera’s lack of speed. As for fly balls, Cabrera had an actual 1B-2B-3B split of 11-13-1, while a hitter with similar projected isolated power would have a 6-18-1 spread, a loss of five total bases attributable to his lack of speed. As great as he was and is, upward adjustment for those bases lost turns him into an even greater hitter – from a .348-.442-.636 line into a .364-.456-.697 Hornsby-esque monster. His adjusted BIP numbers appear below.

Cabrera Miguel FLY 141 31.06% 0.475 1.511 110 358
LD 107 23.57% 0.672 0.974 111 114
GB 174 38.33% 0.337 0.368 90 203
ALL BIP 0.434 0.836 223
This is an imperfect but advantageous method to approximate the effects of player speed on their slash lines. My gut, and the scout in me surmises that it might be overstating the ground ball impact, and understating the line drive/fly ball impact, while coming pretty close overall. The essence of player evaluation is peeling back as many layers as possible to identify the true player within, and this is just another small step toward that end.

Doing More With Less.
Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
A part of the allure of Greg Maddux was how he was able to post an above-league average K/9 during the prime years of his career despite not having the velocity of many of his peers. He was the epitome of sacrificing velocity for movement and location in a time when pitchers were observed peeking over their shoulder to the scoreboard to see what they hit on the in-park radar gun.

Thomas Boswell encapsulated Maddux rather well in repeating an anecdote from a time the two spent together in the early 90′s:

One day I sat a dozen feet behind Maddux’s catcher as three Braves pitchers, all in a row, did their throwing sessions side-by-side. Lefty Steve Avery made his catcher’s glove explode with noise from his 95-mph fastball. His curve looked like it broke a foot-and-a-half. He was terrifying. Yet I could barely tell the difference between Greg’s pitches. Was that a slider, a changeup, a two-seam or four-seam fastball? Maddux certainly looked better than most college pitchers, but not much. Nothing was scary.

Afterward, I asked him how it went, how he felt, everything except “Is your arm okay?” He picked up the tone. With a cocked grin, like a Mad Dog whose table scrap doesn’t taste quite right, he said, “That’s all I got.”

Maddux, while frustrating batters and fascinating fans, made it cool again to be a pitcher that got results without relying upon velocity. In a time when teams are consistently on the hunt for pitching, those who find pitchers who can miss bats with sequencing, location, and deception

The league-wide strikeout percentage (K%) was 19.8% in 2013 while the average fastball velocity (FBv) was 91.7 mph. Batters swung and missed at 9.3% of the pitches thrown, with an overall contact rate of 87.0% and a Z-Contact% of 79.5%. Pitchers who are toughest on batters tend to strike them out frequently by generating frequent swings and misses and limiting both overall contact as well as contact within the strike zone. There were several examples of pitchers (min 100 IP) in 2013 that were able to achieve above-average results in each area despite a FBv < 90.0.

There were six pitchers who exceeded the league-wide K%:

Name K%
Marco Estrada 23.10%
Hisashi Iwakuma 21.40%
Dan Haren 21.10%
Ryan Dempster 20.80%
Erik Bedard 20.80%
A.J. Griffin 20.80%
There were ten pitchers who exceeded the league-wide SwStr%:

Name SwStr%
Kris Medlen 11.00%
Marco Estrada 10.90%
Hisashi Iwakuma 10.30%
Chris Capuano 10.10%
Carlos Villanueva 10.00%
Jered Weaver 9.90%
Ryan Dempster 9.80%
Joe Blanton 9.60%
R.A. Dickey 9.40%
Dillon Gee 9.40%
There were 36 pitchers whose Contact% was below the league average; these were the ten best:

Name Contact%
Marco Estrada 76.50%
Kris Medlen 76.90%
Carlos Villanueva 77.00%
Ryan Dempster 77.30%
Chris Capuano 77.70%
Jered Weaver 77.80%
Hisashi Iwakuma 79.00%
Dallas Keuchel 79.10%
Joe Blanton 79.80%
Tim Hudson 79.90%
No pitcher whose FBv <90.0 was able to post an above-average Z-Contact% these were the ten best efforts:

Name Z-Contact%
Jered Weaver 82.50%
Marco Estrada 83.60%
R.A. Dickey 84.10%
Ryan Dempster 84.80%
Kris Medlen 84.90%
Erik Bedard 85.00%
Carlos Villanueva 85.30%
A.J. Griffin 85.50%
Chris Capuano 85.70%
John Danks 85.70%
Seeing names such as Hisashi Iwakuma, Kris Medlen, and Jered Weaver on those lists is likely not surprising given their recent track record. However, seeing Marco Estrada first or second on all four lists likely is.

Estrada was drafted and developed by the Washington Nationals, before he was waived and then claimed by Milwaukee in 2010. Throughout his three seasons in Milwaukee, he has retired 24% of the batters he has faced via the strikeout while limiting batters to a .239 batting average and a .296 wOBA. The issue with Estrada has been his extreme flyball tendencies leave him susceptible to home runs as 48 of the 437 flyballs in play off Estrada have become home runs. That computes to a 11.0% home run to flyball ratio, well within league-average range.

2013 was no exception as he permitted a career-high 19 home runs despite throwing 250 fewer pitches and permitting 15 fewer flyballs than he had in 2012. Yet, most of his home runs came in the first month of the season as he allowed an astounding ten home runs in the first month of the season. Once he put April behind him, Estrada’s 2013 season was noticeably improved.

April 0.367 22.7% 4.58
ROS 0.257 7.80% 3.59
His efforts did not go unnoticed by skipper Ron Roenicke.

“Marco has pitched in the second half the way we thought he would all year,” Milwaukee Manager Ron Roenicke told the Journal Sentinel. “We’ll see if he can maintain that through a season. We’ll certainly go into spring training with the thought that he can do it.

“That was a great way for him to finish the season. He gets strikeouts with the fastball, he gets strikeouts with the breaking ball, he gets strikeouts with the change-up. When he’s on like that, he can really go through lineups.”

The changeup stood out in 2013 as Estrada was able to sequence it better and increased his usage of it against right-handed batters. He threw 261 changeups to right-handed batters from 2011-2012, but threw 218 in 2013 against them. The willingness to use the pitch more frequently to same-handed batters led to better overall outcomes from the pitch.

Season Pitches wOBA HR BA BABIP K
2011 339 0.308 4 0.230 0.271 27
2012 396 0.303 5 0.239 0.267 26
2013 488 0.201 3 0.176 0.234 51
Estrada is often lumped into the same boat as former Brewer pitcher Dave Bush since both pitchers threw with below league-average velocity while having issues keeping the ball in the ballpark. That is an unfair comparison because Bush walked a finer line while pitching because he did not miss enough bats.

Source: FanGraphs — Marco Estrada, Dave Bush

Estrada has an ability to miss bats due to being able to throw three pitches, to both righties and lefties, for strikes. While his flyball tendencies will always leave him susceptible to home runs, his command of his pitches and his improving control should help limit his amount of baserunners. The recent addition of Matt Garza clouds Estrada’s future as he must now compete for the final two spots in the rotation with the likes of Wily Peralta, Tyler Thornburg, Johnny Hellweg, and Will Smith. The improvements he made last season in how he approached batters should certainly give him an advantage over the younger pitchers in the group.

The Most Important Thing I Learned from WAR.
Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
Wins Above Replacement isn’t a household statistic, and it never will be. It’s too complicated, too theoretical, too unnecessary for most baseball fans. With that said, today more people know about WAR than ever, with the metric routinely coming up on websites and on television. It is, rather understandably, controversial, and plenty of people out there dismiss it without a second thought. While it’s been around for years, I think what really launched WAR to the greater public was the first go-round of the Mike Trout vs. Miguel Cabrera MVP debate. That’s when WAR started getting a lot of play at places like ESPN, and more people were introduced to the framework and to some of its declarations.

Most of the ways WAR gets used are for comparative purposes. People love to see rankings, and people love to know which players are better than others. It also gets used in contract analysis, especially around these parts, and it’s hard to remember how we used to write those posts before we had the numbers we have today. With WAR, it’s really easy to get wrapped up in the details, because the metric allows for such detailed interpretation. But the one most important thing I’ve personally learned from WAR is probably the most general of its points. That is, WAR has provided me with an idea of what baseball players are worth to a team.

Take a player. Take any player who’s a regular, and go to one of his team’s message boards and write a little thing about his WAR. Some people are going to disagree with it. Some people are going to ignore you. But others, still, will engage you and tell you why the player is better or worse. Plenty of people disagree with individual WAR ratings, and that’s OK, because WAR is imperfect, for a variety of reasons. At least, the inputs are imperfect. The framework’s just fine. But anyway, while people don’t always see eye-to-eye on the individuals, I haven’t seen many people bicker with the idea that an average player is worth about two or three wins. It’s accepted that a good player is worth about three to five wins. It’s accepted that a star player is worth more than five wins. And the truly elite can get up around eight or 10. WAR, clearly, also is controversial. In general, people seem to accept its scales. Most of the fights are over decimal points.

For the longest time, that’s something I never had any concept of. I understood some players were better than others; I understood some players were fractional approximations of superior players. Getting actual values, though, changed almost everything. The absolute best player in baseball is worth about 10 wins over a 162-game season — relative to some ordinary Triple-A type. A good player could be worth a third of that. I’m floored by the number of ways in which this has informed my thinking.

The reality is that any given player means relatively little. Maybe that ought to be obvious: A team has several regular position players, and several regular starters, and an entire bullpen full of guys. Baseball, certainly, is a considerable team effort. But if you consider the goal, say, making the playoffs, a given player makes a difference of only some percentage points. Even big splashes can look kind of like small splashes. Small splashes can be virtually inconsequential splashes.

If a talented player has to go on the disabled list, obviously it’s more bad than good, but it can almost never be crippling. If the player’s only gone for 15 or 20 days, the damage might be almost entirely negligible. A 15-day DL stint represents one-twelfth of the regular season. Good players are worth a handful of wins over a full regular season. I doubt I need to lay this out.

I know I used to stress out about midseason moves, if I was following a contender, which has happened. Fans really don’t appreciate it when their teams allow the trade deadline to fly by without significant improvements being made. By definition, an improvement is an improvement and improvements boost odds, but by the middle of the year you’re looking at half a season left, and by the deadline you’ve got two months. It’s a narrow window for a player to make a difference, and such a limited impact can be worth only so many resources going in the other direction.

And there’s something to be said about organizational success windows. People think the Kansas City Royals have to contend this season, before they lose James Shields. People think the Seattle Mariners have to contend before Robinson Cano begins his decline. People think the Baltimore Orioles have to contend before they face difficult questions about some of their own stars. Windows do exist, to some degree. To use the Royals as an example: They’re closer to contention with Shields than they are without him; but even without him, they’re left with a similar team, just without one starting pitcher. If the Royals don’t make the playoffs in 2014, they don’t have to tear everything down because Shields became a free agent. They could try to build a contender again for 2015, and it would be far from impossible. A decent team with a good player is a mostly decent team even without him.

Writing this out, I’m left wondering whether it’s even been worth writing this out. It all sounds so simple and obvious to me, and that isn’t what FanGraphs is supposed to be about, except for when the next team signs Yuniesky Betancourt. We’ve accepted the point of WAR for years. But take a moment to appreciate how that’s had an effect on you and on your own fandom. I’m a completely different baseball fan than I used to be. The emotion can still be there for the games, but in between, I’m a lot more mild-mannered. I worry less about individual players, because individual players are cogs in a giant machine. Groups of moves can make a big difference, but particular moves often just make the needle wiggle a little bit. Seasons aren’t won and lost on singular transactions.

That is, unless we’re completely and hopelessly wrong about clubhouse chemistry and those sorts of intangibles. I don’t know — that’s a separate frontier, and I’m not among the explorers. Maybe players make an enormous difference after all. I’ll await the evidence.

I can see the way WAR has had an effect on my following hockey. I’m not so concerned about offensive defensemen being mediocre in their own end; and I’m not so concerned about defensive forwards being mediocre in the offensive zone. It has to be all about overall value, with all of the attendant pluses and minuses. That’s an example of a way in which WAR has crossed a boundary.

In baseball, though, as much as I like to use WAR for comparisons and evaluations, the most important thing it’s taught me is simply what average and good players are worth. And mediocre players, and great players, and all the players in between. It feels like a fairly fundamental lesson, but you’ll never get anywhere without the fundamentals.

2014 Top 10 Prospects: Colorado Rockies.
Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
The Rockies’ Top 10 list includes two young pitchers with the potential to develop into No. 1 or 2 starters, as well as an outfielder with five-tool talent. So, in other words, there is some high-ceiling talent in this system but the overall depth in the organization is not overly compelling.
#1 Eddie Butler | 65/AA (P)

22 28 28 149.2 96 9 8.60 3.13 1.80 3.23
The Year in Review: A supplemental first round draft pick from 2012, Butler has moved quickly through the Rockies’ system. He played at three levels in 2013: Low-A, High-A and Double-A. He spent the majority of the year in A-ball and made 22 starts between the two levels. Combined between all three levels, Butler struck out 143 batters in 149.2 innings and induced ground-ball outs at a high rate.

The Scouting Report: Butler made huge strides with his secondary stuff in 2013 and projects to now have three solid weapons with his mid-to-upper-90s fastball, changeup and slider — all of which feature a lot of movement. He also has a curveball that lags behind his other offerings. Along with swing-and-miss stuff, Butler’s ground-ball tendencies make him an ideal pitcher for Colorado.

The Year Ahead: After making just six starts at the Double-A level in 2013, the Virginia native should return to that level in 2014. Like prospect-mate Jonathan Gray, Butler could be in the Majors in the second half of the season.

The Career Outlook: Butler has come a long way in a short period of time and, if everything clicks, he could slot in nicely right alongside Gray for a formidable one-two punch.

#2 Jonathan Gray | 65/A+ (P)

21 9 9 37.1 25 0 12.29 1.93 1.93 1.19
The Year in Review: The third overall selection in the 2013 amateur draft, Gray made nine starts after turning pro and stuck out 51 batters in 37.1 innings of work. He also showed above-average control with just eight walks. After beginning his career in the Advanced Rookie league, Gray finished the season with five High-A ball starts and batters hit just .128 against him.

The Scouting Report: Gray has overpowering velocity on his heater, which sits in the mid-to-upper 90s and can hit triple digits. His slider is his second-best offering and it can be overpowering. His changeup is still a work-in-progress and is inconsistent. To survive pitching half his games in Colorado, Gray may want to focus a little bit more on working down in the zone and inducing more ground-ball outs.

The Year Ahead: Gray’s strong start to his career, as well as his pedigree, could convince the organization to start him out in Double-A in 2014 — assuming he looks good in the spring. It wouldn’t be a shock to see Gray in the Rockies’ big league starting rotation by the end of August.

The Career Outlook: The University of Oklahoma alum has a chance to develop into a No. 1 starter if he can develop a reliable third offering to his repertoire.

#3 David Dahl | 60/A- (OF)

19 42 11 4 0 2 8 2 .275 .310 .425 .335
The Year in Review: Dahl had a nightmare 2013 season. The 10th overall draft pick in the 2012 amateur draft received an opening day assignment to Low-A ball but that was quickly overturned and he was demoted to extended spring training for disciplinary reasons. He then returned to that level in late April but appeared in just 10 games in ’13 thanks to a torn hamstring.

The Scouting Report: Dahl is a rare true five-tool talent. He makes excellent contact and has an advanced feel for hitting. He could eventually hit 20+ home runs but is still learning to tap into his left-handed pop on a consistent basis. He is an above-average runner, which helps him play an excellent center field and he also has a strong arm.

The Year Ahead: Dahl will no doubt return to Low-A ball and look to put his disastrous ’13 season behind him. He posted a 1.048 OPS during his debut season in 2012 so the raw talent is definitely there; he just needs to find a way to channel his energies in an effect manner on the baseball diamond.

The Career Outlook: The Alabama native will turn 20 in early April so time is still on his side. He has the talent to be an outstanding big league outfielder if he can continue to mature both on and off the field.

#4 Rosell Herrera | 55/A- (SS)

20 546 162 33 16 61 96 21 .343 .419 .515 .426
The Year in Review: Herrera had a breakout 2013 season while repeating the Low-A ball level at the age of 20. He saw his OPS jump from .543 in 2012 to .933 last year. He hit for average, power and even stole 21 bases in 29 attempts. He stuck out a fair bit but showed a good eye with 61 walks, which helped him post a .419 on-base percentage.

The Scouting Report: Herrera flashes average or better tools across the board, although he may eventually outgrow shortstop and move to third base. The infielder has made adjustments to improve his consistency at the plate with better contact rates and it showed in 2013. He still has room to fill out and may eventually has the strength to pop 20+ home runs per season.

The Year Ahead: Herrera will move up to High-A ball and, now in his fifth pro season, will hopefully continue to hit well and earn a promotion to Double-A in the second half of the year.

The Career Outlook: He may not stick at shortstop but Herrera has flashed the potential to develop into a big league regular at the MLB level — even if he has to move to third base permanently.

#5 Ryan McMahon | 55/R (3B)

18 251 70 18 11 28 59 4 .321 .402 .583 .429
The Year in Review: Pro ball did not faze McMahon one bit. The 18-year-old prospect hit .321 with an OPS just shy of 1.000 in his debut. He also popped 32 extra base hits, including 11 that cleared the outfield fence.

The Scouting Report: Despite splitting his attention in high school between football and baseball, McMahon has an advanced feel for the game. His best tool may be his left-handed power but he also shows enough aptitude with the bat to eventually hit for strong averages and good on-base percentages — especially if he can trim the strikeouts. Defensively, he has a good shot at sticking at third base thanks to his strong arm and average range.

The Year Ahead: McMahon will almost certainly open the 2014 in Low-A ball but he could reach High-A ball in the second half if he continues to develop as expected.

The Career Outlook: The California native appears to have made a wise decision in following through on his love of baseball. He has a chance to develop into an all-star outfielder with an excellent all-around game.

#6 Tom Murphy | 55/AA (C)

22 415 103 31 22 41 103 4 .289 .376 .571 .424
The Year in Review: Murphy spent much longer in Low-A ball than many prospect watchers expected him to — especially after he posted an OPS just shy of 1.000. However, once the promotion came, he skipped over HIgh-A ball and finished the season (20 games) in Double-A where he managed an .831 OPS.

The Scouting Report: Murphy has the potential to hit for above-average, right-handed power. However, he swings and misses a bit too much to project for a strong batting average as he moves up the ladder. Defensively, he’s a solid catcher with a strong arm and good receiving skills. He’s still learning the finer aspects of catching, including game calling and field leadership.

The Year Ahead: Murphy should return to the Double-A level and is suddenly cast in a very favorable light as the Rockies’ catcher of the future.

The Career Outlook: Murphy should develop into a power-hitting, big league catcher who will play average or better defense.

#7 Raimel Tapia | 55/R (OF)

19 286 92 20 7 15 31 10 .357 .399 .562 .419
The Year in Review: The teenager hit .357 in Rookie ball in 2013 while also showcasing some gap power but he was raw on the base paths and didn’t have much success stealing bases (10 for 19). He enjoyed a 29-game hitting streak.

The Scouting Report: The Dominican native has the makings of a plus, left-handed hitter and he handles southpaws surprisingly well for his limited professional experience. He has a well-balanced approach at the plate, which helps him make above-average contact. He makes such good contact that he doesn’t walk much. With some added weight/muscle, Tapia could eventually hit 15+ home runs. He also has above-average speed but needs to improve his reads.

The Year Ahead: Tapia will move up to full-season ball for the first time in his career and will look to continue getting on base at a solid clip despite his free-swinging ways.

The Career Outlook: The projectable Tapia could end up sticking in centre field and stealing a bunch of bases — or he could end up filling out his 6-2, 160 pound frame, slowing down and developing home run pop from the left side of the plate as a right-fielder. Only time will tell.

#8 Trevor Story | 50/A+ (SS)

20 554 116 34 12 45 183 23 .233 .305 .394 .311
The Year in Review: It was an ugly year for Story who struck out 183 times in 130 High-A games. The middle infielder did show gap power and stole 23 bases in 24 attempts. He also improved drastically in the second half of the year even though he continued to swing and miss at an alarming rate.

The Scouting Report: Story has the tools to be a good hitter but he fell into the trap of trying to hit for too much power in 2013. With some adjustments, he should recover the ability to hit for respectable pop with a good batting average. Defensively, he has a strong arm and good actions at shortstop but his range is average and he may eventually end up at the hot corner or second base.

The Year Ahead: Story may have to return to High-A ball in 2014 but, if he can cut down on the strikeouts, he could reach Double-A before the all-star break.

The Career Outlook: The 2014 season will be an important one in Story’s development. He has fellow shortstop prospect Rosell Herrera to contend with and one of them may be destined for third base, which will no doubt put even more pressure of the offensive (and power) development.

#9 Chad Bettis | 50/MLB (P)

24 44.2 6.04 4.03 46.7 % 5.64 4.93 4.68 -0.6 0.2
The Year in Review: Bettis rebounded from missing the entire 2012 season due to a shoulder injury. His stuff wasn’t quite as crisp last year but he help his own in Double-A and earned a late-season promotion to the Majors where he struggled with his fastball command and allowed 55 hits in 44.2 innings of work.

The Scouting Report: Injuries have cost Bettis a lot of development time and his fastball doesn’t sit in the mid-90s as often as it used to. Despite that fact, he still works in the low-90s and induces strong ground-ball-out rates. His changeup is a solid offering but both his breaking balls need further development to become consistently-average offerings.

The Year Ahead: Bettis has a shot at opening the 2014 season on the Rockies’ big league roster but it remains to be seen if it will be in the starting rotation or the bullpen.

The Career Outlook: The right-hander doesn’t throw quite as hard as he did before his shoulder injury but he still has good stuff and gets outs on the ground. He may find more success in the bullpen.

#10 Kyle Parker | 50/AA (OF)

23 631 165 32 27 45 120 7 .286 .341 .499 .370
The Year in Review: The 26th overall selection from the 2010 amateur draft, Parker had a solid-but-unspectacular 2013 season at the Double-A level. He broke the 20-home-run barrier for the third straight season but his on-base percentage took a big dive from .415 in 2012 to .345 in 2013. He attended the Arizona Fall League after the regular season ended and posted an .856 OPS.

The Scouting Report: Parker’s best tool is his above-average, right-handed power. He’s still working on his pitch recognition and struggles with breaking balls at times. He has strong bat speed to get around on good fastballs. Defensively, he has a strong arm but modest range and could handle either corner outfield position. More recently, though, he’s been spending time at first base — including in the AFL.

The Year Ahead: Parker will once again move up one step at a time to the Triple-A level. He’ll likely have to wait for an injury or demotion to provide him with an opportunity to play at the big league level in 2014.

The Career Outlook: I’m not the hugest Parker fan in the world but he has a shot at developing into a modest big league corner outfielder or first baseman. More than likely, though, he’ll end up as a platoon outfielder/first baseman or powerful bat off the bench.

The Next Five:

11. Tyler Anderson, LHP: The southpaw missed a good chunk of the season while dealing with a shoulder injury. He hit the disabled list in mid-May and didn’t return until August. He made just 16 starts on the year with the majority of them coming in High-A ball. Anderson has the ceiling of a No. 4 starter who could chew up innings if his shoulder woes are behind him. His best pitch is his plus changeup. He also has a fringe-average fastball and two breaking balls.

12. Jayson Aquino, LHP: It’s been a slow climb through the system for Aquino, who originally signed with the Rockies back in 2009. He spent three years pitching in the Dominican Summer League before earning a spot on a North America squad and he has yet to pitch a full season. Aquino, 21, remains a long-term project but he could develop into a No. 3/4 starter or set-up man.

13. Cristhian Adames, SS: Adames saw his OPS dip below .700 after spending the year in Double-A but it’s the strength of his glove that will get the switch-hitter to the Majors. He has good range, a strong arm and solid actions at shortstop. If he doesn’t hit well enough to be an everyday player, Adames has the athleticism to play anywhere in the infielder — even though he has limited experience at other positions.

14. Will Swanner, C: Swanner had two really bad months in 2013 (April, July) that dragged down his overall numbers and he’s going to have to become more consistent overall if he’s going to reach his full potential. The 22-year-old prospect probably isn’t going to stick behind the plate long term but a position switch (likely to first base) could allow him to focus more on his offense and help unlock his full potential — which is tied to his plus raw power.

15. Jose Briceno, C: Injuries wiped out Briceno’s 2012 season so he’s a little bit behind the eight ball with his development. He spent time in both Rookie ball and Low-A ball while flashing above-average offensive potential and solid power. Behind the plate, the young catcher flashes a strong arm but needs to improve the finer aspects of his defensive game. He should return to Low-A ball to open the 2014 season.

Who Could Improve the Most with Ervin Santana or Ubaldo Jimenez?
Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
Let’s acknowledge that we can’t quite figure out Ervin Santana or Ubaldo Jimenez. I’ve been trying, off and on, for months. Jimenez is a prize of the free-agent market. As recently as 2012 he was below replacement level. Santana is another prize of the free-agent market. As recently as 2012 he was also below replacement level. These guys were good, then bad, then good, and they stand as fine examples of how domestic veterans aren’t always more predictable than international free agents or minor leaguers. For multiple reasons, it’s not a complete shock that neither of them has signed yet.

But let’s just simplify things with an assumption: let’s assume Santana and Jimenez will be pretty good in 2014. Not aces, but fine starters. I think it’s safe to say that’s how they’re perceived by the market, and it’s not like anyone’s ignoring them because they’re bad. It’s just a matter of finding the right price tags, and it shouldn’t be much longer before we know where they’re both going. They’re sought after, and they represent immediate upgrades. So there’s an important question: who would they upgrade the most?

It’s something we can’t know, but it’s something we can mess around with. For each team, what would be the magnitude of the improvement from signing Santana or Jimenez? Let’s just peg them both for 200 innings and 3 WAR for this coming season. That’s optimistic — a little too optimistic — but I’m feeling optimistic today. We’ll also consider only 2014, because while neither guy will sign for one year, the first year is likely to be their best. Everything else we need for this exercise, we can find on the starting-pitcher depth chart page.

The depth charts are maintained by FanGraphs authors, and they’re fueled by the Steamer projection system. This is what we’re going to run with. For each team’s rotation, I added 200 innings and 3 WAR, to represent Santana/Jimenez. I then subtracted 200 innings from other people. I handled each team on a case-by-case basis, but my rule of thumb was erasing obvious depth guys, and then subtracting innings from the worst remaining starter(s). What I was left with was a new best-guess depth chart for each team, and then I calculated the difference in starting-rotation WAR. This is the improvement.

The exercise requires a handful of assumptions. It requires faith in both the projections and in the FanGraphs author depth charts. But at this point in the offseason we’re not going to be able to do much better. So, here’s a table with all the results. In the first column, the teams. In the second column, the estimated wins added from having acquired Ervin Santana or Ubaldo Jimenez.

Team +Wins
Reds 2.4
Giants 2.2
Phillies 2.1
Astros 2.1
White Sox 2.1
Indians 2.0
Marlins 1.8
Dodgers 1.7
Brewers 1.7
Nationals 1.6
Royals 1.6
Rays 1.6
Angels 1.6
Diamondbacks 1.6
Mets 1.5
Pirates 1.5
Blue Jays 1.5
Mariners 1.4
Padres 1.4
Braves 1.4
Cardinals 1.3
Cubs 1.3
Twins 1.2
Orioles 1.1
Athletics 1.0
Rangers 0.7
Rockies 0.6
Yankees 0.6
Tigers 0.5
Red Sox 0.0
We range from basically zero added wins to almost two and a half added wins, with some predictable teams toward the bottom. The Red Sox are already overloaded with starters. The Yankees have filled out their rotation, expensively, and the Tigers look outstanding, if thin. The Rockies might look a little out of place, but, I don’t know what to tell you. I didn’t make up the projections. You can work your own way through the rest.

What we really care about is the top of the table. And at the very top, we find the Reds. Now, the Reds have a talented starting five, right now. But they have some health questions, and a Tony Cingrani question, and some depth questions. By this methodology, the Reds would stand to gain the most, but we also know the Reds aren’t really in position to make this sort of splash. While they might not be out of money, they probably couldn’t afford some sort of approximation of the Matt Garza contract.

After the Reds, we find the Giants, who have a shaky Ryan Vogelsong and even shakier depth behind him. They don’t seem to be in the market for either starter. The Phillies, Astros, and White Sox could all improve by a couple games, but neither the Astros nor the White Sox look set to contend, and the Phillies really don’t either, even though the front office might disagree. Eventually you land on the Indians. The Indians are looking at a potential gain of a couple wins, and they’d also like to have Jimenez back if that’s at all possible. At issue is the cost, which is the same for everybody. The Indians aren’t big spenders, and recently they’ve talked about how content they are to sort through internal starting options.

The Marlins are unrealistic. You can never count out the Dodgers, but they allowed themselves to be out-bid by the Yankees for Masahiro Tanaka. The Brewers, presumably, are done addressing the rotation with expensive free agents. By this point we’re into the middle tier, where we’re looking at a bunch of teams who could improve by about a win and a half. This is where you find a lot of the rumored suitors, and the interesting Nationals possibility. Perhaps most interestingly, Steamer thinks the Orioles would only gain about a win. While the Orioles lack a big-time ace, they have a number of guys who are more or less adequate.

Given their rotation, and given their position on the win curve, the Reds might benefit the most from signing Santana or Jimenez. They’re also not considered a strong possibility. Among teams who’ve been rumored, the Indians might benefit the most, and I’m guessing that would involve the return of Jimenez. He’d bring them closer to the Tigers, and he’d put them in better wild-card position. Everyone else would benefit a little less, and it’s important to understand that adding a three-win starter wouldn’t automatically mean a three-win upgrade, since most of those innings wouldn’t have gone to replacement-level starters otherwise. That would be another lesson to take out of this exercise.

An acquisition like this is complicated. There are future years to keep in mind, and there’s the reality of draft-pick compensation, and there’s the availability of alternatives. Yet maybe nothing’s more important than the immediate improvement, and certain teams could be improved more than others. If you grant that Santana and Jimenez are good, which, well, baseball’s wacky sometimes.

Oliver Perez, Somehow A Potential Bargain.
Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
Oliver Perez has had a pretty fascinating career path, and while I hardly need to bring you through his entire history, it’d be remiss to start an article about him without at least touching on his backstory briefly. Drafted by the Padres, he was shipped to Pittsburgh in the Brian Giles trade, where he put up one shining age-22 season — 4.4 WAR, 239 strikeouts in 2004 — before posting an ERA north of 5.00 in four of the next six seasons. Most of that time was spent with the Mets, where he was so awful (other than a solid 2007) that they cut him just before camp ended in 2011, despite still owing him $12 million for the season. Perez spent some time in the minors for Washington that year, never appearing in the bigs, and considering how long it had been since that wonderful 2004, it wasn’t hard to think of his career as being over.

Except, it wasn’t. Perez resurfaced as a reliever in Seattle in 2012 and was good enough that it shocked our resident Mariners fans into writing posts titled “Oliver Perez Is Good Now. Seriously.” (Cameron, 2012) and “Oliver Perez. Pitcher You Want.” (Sullivan, 2013). His reputation was so terrible that the mere fact that he was in the bigs and adding any kind of value was seen as a jaw-dropping event.
Now Perez is a free agent, and two weeks before camp starts, the silence around him has been deafening. If you look at his player tag on MLB Trade Rumors, there hasn’t been a single media mention of him since December 4, when Washington Post beat writer Adam Kilgore tweeted that the Nationals, Mariners, and Padres all “remain in on him.” Prior to that, it was a November 15 mention, also about the Nats. And… that’s it. In over three months, two mere mentions.

Maybe that’s not so surprising, because he’s a non-closing lefty reliever in a market where Ervin Santana, Ubaldo Jimenez, Stephen Drew and so on still exist, and just because MLBTR hasn’t picked up on any further news, it doesn’t mean that no conversations have been had.

Still, the complete lack of public noise around Perez is notable, because he compares pretty favorably to this winter’s two big lefty relief free agents, Boone Logan ($16.5m over three years) and J.P. Howell ($11.25m over two years, with a vesting clause that could push it to $17.25m):

2012-13 IP K/9 BB/9 HR/9 ERA FIP WAR
Howell 112.1 7.69 3.61 0.72 2.56 3.74 0.3
Logan 94.1 11.26 3.91 1.24 3.53 3.73 0.8
Perez 82.2 10.67 3.92 0.76 3.13 3.13 1.3
Now, that’s leaving out some obvious qualifiers. Logan (29) and Howell (31) are each slightly younger than Perez (32), and tougher on lefties, and Perez had a really difficult second half, maintaining his strikeout rate but suffering through control problems and a .444 BABIP. (Which is basically a case study for “losing team going nowhere should have traded non-elite reliever with history of inconsistency when they had the chance.”) That said, no one’s suggesting that Perez should be getting a large multi-year deal like Howell and Logan did. At this point, I’m wondering if he’s even going to get a major league deal, or if someone is going to end up with a relative steal of a minor league invite.

You can say it’s a steal, because over the last two years, Perez’ contact rate has been within a percentage point of Max Scherzer, Glen Perkins, and Jesse Crain. His swinging-strike percentage is basically identical to Joe Nathan and better than that of Michael Wacha or Clayton Kershaw. His first-pitch strike percentage is the same as Hisashi Iwakuma, Lance Lynn, and Trevor Rosenthal. None of those stats alone make for a successful pitcher, as I should hardly need to explain by the mere fact that Kershaw’s name is included here, but they do make for a guy who has been doing something right on the mound, especially notable since for so many years he was doing nothing right on the mound.

Really, with Logan and Howell off the board and lesser pitchers like Jose Mijares already locked up, the market for remaining lefty relievers is all but finished. There’s Mike Gonzalez, who is 36 and coming off the worst year of his career, or Rich Hill, who is 34, coming off a 6.28 ERA, and with all of 70.1 innings in the last four seasons. In the meantime, those reported suitors have gone in other directions. The Nationals traded for Jerry Blevins and may yet find a way to push Ross Detwiler into the bullpen. The Mariners already have Charlie Furbush and Lucas Luetge, and signed Joe Beimel to a minor league deal. The Padres just traded for Alex Torres after previously adding Patrick Schuster as a Rule 5 pick, and may have either Eric Stults or Cory Luebke in the bullpen if either doesn’t make the rotation.

That doesn’t mean other teams couldn’t be interested that we don’t know about, but it does mean that the teams reportedly sniffing around him may have moved on. You get it, really. You look at Perez’ past, and his disappointing second half, and the fact that his “rebirth” is really all of about 80 innings of baseball. But he’s also a lefty, a not particularly old one, and someone who appears to have found himself in the bullpen. I can’t say with a straight face that I’d rather him over Logan in 2014 if all conditions were equal. That said, conditions aren’t equal, and someone will end up with Perez for something like $15 million less than Colorado is paying Logan. For approximately 10 percent of the cost or less, Perez seems like he could approximate a sizable portion of Logan’s value. That means it’s been a surprisingly quiet winter for Ollie… too quiet.

The Challenge of Stephen Drew Changing Positions.
Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
I think it’s safe to say Stephen Drew‘s in a pretty weird position. He’s a free agent, and he’s 30, so he’s not super old. He spent last year playing with the eventual MLB champion. By our numbers he was worth 3.4 wins, and he was worth 3.4 wins in 124 games, as a team’s regular shortstop. It’s easy to make a case that Drew ought to be highly desirable, but here he is, available at the end of January, and no one seems to want to give him more than two years. If reports are to be believed, Drew’s got himself a pretty weak market.

And more than that, increasingly there are rumors that Drew would be willing to play other positions. That is, Drew would be willing to not play a premium up-the-middle position, to make himself more marketable. According to Peter Gammons, a year ago Drew wasn’t quite so flexible. This could be interpreted as a sign of desperation, as teams just aren’t really looking for shortstops anymore. Desperation or not, if the rumors are true, Drew starts to look a little different. But what could be expected if Drew were to shift to second or third base?

You think about the Yankees. The Yankees have Derek Jeter at short, but nothing sexy at second or third, and it couldn’t hurt to have more depth behind Jeter than Brendan Ryan since Jeter might not actually be good. You think about the Blue Jays. The Blue Jays have Jose Reyes at short and Brett Lawrie at third, but a total cluster-platoon at second, and the Jays would like very much to contend. You can see how it could help Drew to market himself as an infielder, instead of just as a shortstop.

You’re familiar with the positional adjustments that are built into the WAR formula. For these purposes, the positional adjustments can tell us a simple thing: if Drew were to change positions, his new infield position would have a lower positional value. However, he would also be better defensively, relative to his new peers, and that improvement would basically cancel out the reduced value of his position. The idea would be that Drew as a second or third baseman would be Drew as a shortstop, with a higher UZR and a similar overall Defense rating. The idea would be that the transition would be pretty simple, and Drew wouldn’t end up any less valuable.

Another approach here is to take a look at the results of the Fan Scouting Report. Below, a table, comparing Stephen Drew to 2013 big-league shortstops, second basemen, and third basemen. Shown are Drew’s career ratings, because the sample is bigger and because his career ratings aren’t meaningfully different from his 2013 ratings. You can quibble with the methodology all you want but we might as well explore what the numbers suggest.

Pool Instincts First Step Speed Hands Release Arm Strength Arm Accuracy Overall
Drew 64 63 59 66 70 60 69 64
SS 60 61 59 58 59 60 57 59
2B 55 55 53 53 54 46 56 53
3B 55 50 46 54 54 56 53 53
The fans who submitted ballots find Drew to be a slightly above-average defensive shortstop. That also would make him a well-above-average defensive second or third baseman. There’s no category in which he rates below average, compared to any position. He has a big edge in Hands, Release, and Arm Accuracy. What you get from this is that Drew seems to have all the tools. And why wouldn’t he? He’s been trusted as a shortstop, and being a shortstop is really hard.

But something we also have is history. Not Stephen Drew’s history — Drew’s only ever played shortstop — but a history of other guys who’ve played short and moved. I’ll tell you right now this isn’t extensive. Still, I looked for guys who played at least 1,000 innings at short in a year between 2002-2012. Then, out of those guys, I looked for guys who played at least 500 innings at a different position the next year. I was left with a sample of all of 10 players, since ordinarily, if you can still play short almost every day, you stay there. Three players moved to second base, six players moved to third base, and one player moved to center field. Here are those players:

Craig Counsell
Ryan Theriot
Orlando Cabrera
Alex Rodriguez
Jose Hernandez
Jhonny Peralta
Michael Young
Miguel Tejada
Carlos Guillen
Bill Hall
For each player, I calculated Def per 1,000 innings. The year before moving, these players averaged 6.0 Def/1000. The year after moving, they averaged 0.5 Def/1000. Their UZR/1000 dropped by a little over two runs, despite generally shifting to easier spots. As for the shortstops who remained shortstops, year-to-year their average Def/1000 was stable, nudging from 5.9 to 6.0. Their UZR/1000 changed from 0.8 to 0.9. Based on a very small sample, there’s reason to believe the position switches cost some value.

Eight of ten players lost about four or more runs by Def/1000. Tejada and Guillen stayed the same. No one really made an improvement, which is something you’d probably expect, since these players were selected for position switches. Maybe they were perceived to be declining. It is, again, a small sample, a far smaller sample than I’m usually comfortable with, but I think this could also be pretty easy to explain.

If you’re a shortstop, you have the tools to play elsewhere, especially if you’re talking about second or third base. This is why shortstop is so far to the left on the defensive spectrum. But defense is about both tools and familiarity, and there’s going to be an adjustment period when you’re learning new ideas and responsibilities. So much of playing a position well is reps, in order to brand certain things into the muscle memory. You can accumulate reps only so fast, and in the initial stages, there could and should be a higher probability of making a mistake. It’s only over time that what’s learned can start to feel like instinct.

Manny Machado, obviously, had little trouble moving over to third, and last year he was perhaps the best defensive player in all of baseball. Yet the numbers say he was much better in 2013 than he was in 2012, even though in 2012 he was statistically outstanding. Perhaps Machado, too, had to overcome an initial adjustment period. It would be a weird thing if he didn’t.

So while Drew might be open to playing other positions, and while there’s certain value in flexibility, Drew also might struggle at another position, particularly at first. As a second or third baseman, he might be a half-win less valuable, and as much as that feels like it could be noise, it’s also valued at some millions of dollars. Given enough repetitions, Drew could presumably make himself pretty good almost anywhere. That would matter for August and September and 2015 and 2016. Yet the short term also matters for potential suitors, and in the short term, Stephen Drew is a shortstop with an open mind.

Looking for Upside in the Tanaka Contract.
Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
I was on vacation last week, so in my absence, Jeff Sullivan handled the write-ups relating to Masahiro Tanaka signing with the Yankees. When the news broke on Wednesday, he wrote a couple of posts about it, and in typical Jeff Sullivan fashion, the second post was explicitly “not an evaluation of the Masahiro Tanaka contract.” Jeff’s takes are smart and nuanced, and you should read them, but I also think the Tanaka contract is worth an evaluation, especially because it is so different from most free agent contracts.

In general, most free agent deals are not that difficult to evaluate. The majority of free agents are already on the downside of their career, so there’s a tension in the negotiations between the player trying to get as many years as possible and the team trying to limit their obligations to an aging player who is expected to be get worse in every subsequent season. In recent years, it seems that negotiations have mostly shifted away from bidding in annual average value into almost entirely bidding on years, where the signing team is the one who guarantees one year more than the rest of the bidders. Negotiations for free agents can be pretty accurately described as a push and pull between teams and players over the number of guaranteed years the player is going to receive, with most everything else being secondary to that agreement.

Due to his age, however, Tanaka’s situation is entirely different. Because he has no Major League service time, he was automatically going to be under team control for a minimum of six years unless his agent negotiated an exception into the contract. The bidding essentially began at six years simply due to the service time requirements for free agency, as there was no reason for him to accept a shorter term contract that would still keep him under team control through 2019 without guaranteed payments for all six years. The Yankees eventually won the bidding by guaranteeing a seventh year, but they didn’t just stop there; they also gave Tanaka an opt-out after the fourth year of the contract, giving him both long term security and the flexibility to hit free agency again after his age-28 season if he so chooses.

For Tanaka, the Yankees offer was the best of both worlds. He is guaranteed $155 million in salary over the next seven years, but because of the opt-out, he can collect $88 million over the next four seasons and then hit it big again in free agency after 2017 if he proves to be as good as everyone thinks he may be. If he turns into an ace, given the inflation we’ve seen in MLB and the economic strength of the sport, it’s not hard to see his next contract pushing over $200 million over six or seven years, so the opt-out gives Tanaka a chance to end up with total earnings of between $250 and $300 million over the next decade.

So it’s not difficult to see why Tanaka is a Yankee. They beat the field in total years (and total dollars, naturally) and still gave him the opt-out clause, so it’s probably fair to say that no other team was particularly close to the Yankees offer in terms of both potential revenue and guaranteed money. As Jeff talked about, this is the kind of contract we’re used to seeing the Yankees give out, and it’s the kind of contract that can be chalked up to them being the Yankees and having more money than is necessary to build a championship club. They did this because they can, and it won’t hurt them because they’re the Yankees. If the deal goes badly, they’ll just sign someone else to replace Tanaka, because the funds are basically unlimited once they decided to not stay under the luxury tax.

There’s a problem with that line of thinking, though. Even after signing Tanaka, the funds are clearly not unlimited, and his signing hasn’t led to a wave of new spending that fixes the rest of the Yankees problems. They still have Kelly Johnson penciled in as their starting third baseman, and Brian Roberts is the favorite to play second base for a few innings on Opening Day until he gets hurt again. Derek Jeter may or may not be able to play shortstop anymore, and if he can’t, then the Yankees are counting on Brendan Ryan to be a regular. Their fifth starter is David Phelps. Either Ichiro or Alfonso Soriano are going to be in the line-up as the RF/DH on a daily basis, and both project as somewhere between replacement level and below average for next year.

This Yankees team still has some pretty serious problems, and the structure of this contract makes me wonder why the Yankees pursued this particular strategy rather than using the same amount of money to pursue a variety of players instead. Especially once the decision was made to be willing to include an opt-out in Tanaka’s contract.

The entire point of signing Tanaka instead of pursuing the veteran MLB free agents is that his youth brings the promise of both short term and long term value. This wasn’t supposed to be the kind of deal where the team gets value up front in exchange for taking on an albatross at the back. Tanaka was appealing because he can help you in 2014 and 2018, and his contract price reflects the value of his youth. But the opt-out changes that calculation, because in reality, the Yankees don’t have Tanaka for 7/$155M; they have him for 4/$108M.

That is what this contract will cost them if it works out. Tanaka will make $88 million in salary over the next four years, and the Yankees will have paid $20 million to obtain his rights, so their total cost before the opt-out is $108 million. If Tanaka pitches well and stays healthy, he’ll void the last three years of the contract and look for a big raise. The only way the Yankees get Tanaka for years five, six, and seven is if he’s either been a bust or gets injured, in which case, the Yankees probably will have to pay Tanaka $67 million for three years where he’d be expected to provide less value than what that money could have bought them in free agency. The opt-out basically kills the idea of this contract providing long term value and turns the contract into a 4/$108M deal for the Yankees, with a chance of having to fork over extra money if the deal goes south.

For $108 million over the next four years, the Yankees could theoretically have ended up as the high bidders for Matt Garza and Jhonny Peralta, who are pretty likely to outproduce in the short term and maybe even in the longer term, depending on how well they age. Or, if you don’t like that pair, Ricky Nolasco, Jason Vargas, and Omar Infante will combien to make $111 million for the next four years, and it’s going to be tough for Tanaka/Phelps/Roberts to outperform that trio in a significant way.

If you believe Tanaka is going to maintain more of his current level of performance over the next few years, then sure, maybe you’re a little bit better off with Tanaka and a couple cheap scrubs than you are with three market priced average players, but getting Tanaka for 4/$108M also required risking the extra $67 million if things go poorly. The downside to putting most of your eggs — and then a few batches of extra eggs — in the Tanaka basket is clearly greater than if the Yankees had just used the same money to sign multiple domestic free agents, but I’m not sure I see a corresponding upside to offset the risk of giving him the option on years five through seven.

The market price for wins this winter has been around $6 million apiece; to justify $108 million over the next four years, that puts Tanaka at +18 WAR from 2014 to 2017. There were exactly five pitchers in MLB who posted +18 WAR over the last four years. To come out ahead relative to what they could have gotten by just signing regular old MLB free agents, Tanaka would have to be a Cy Young contender year in and year out, and that’s just to justify the $27 million per year commitment through 2017. Toss in the extra $67 million the Yankees risked in the scenarios where things don’t go well, and the paths for this contract to hurt the Yankees seem far more reasonable and likely than the ones where this contract would look like a good idea in retrospect.

As just a straight seven year commitment, it isn’t that hard to see this deal working out for New York. With inflation, the back end of a 7 year, $175 million payout won’t be that problematic, and Tanaka would only be 31 in the last year of that deal, so he could very well be the rare free agent to be worth his salary at the beginning and end of the deal. But the opt-out changes things, and essentially eliminates the chance that the Yankees can get long term value from this contract, which was the primary selling point in signing Tanaka to begin with. And because the posting fee is paid before the opt-out, they’re actually forfeiting the right to the lowest AAV years in terms of total cost, making it even tougher for this price to be worth paying relative to just applying $108 million to alternative options.

Even if you factor in the fact that only $88 million goes to the luxury tax and the potential that they’ll be able to get a discount on Tanaka’s next deal by owning his rights before he gets to free agency, I just have a hard time seeing those small values being worth the extra risk of the $67 million they agreed to pay in years five through seven if things go south. To put up that kind of back-end payoff that only kicks in if he’s a bust, you’d expect there to be some real value to the Yankees before the opt-out to offset the risk that they’re taking in guaranteeing him seven years without getting seven guaranteed years back. And at $27 million per year in total costs, it’s hard to see the short term value in Tanaka relative to the market price of domestic players.

I see a lot of ways this contract can go badly for New York, and very few ways in which this contract is likely to have been better than just going after a couple of the mid-tier free agents for the same total cost. The Yankees should absolutely put a high price on their own marginal wins, but in doing so, it’s hard to justify going into a season with so many weak spots when there were upgrades available that ended up in other cities. If we’re going to play the “it’s the Yankees, who cares about the money?” card, then we have to answer why they still have so many holes on their roster, and why this still doesn’t look like one of the five best teams in the American League.

From here, it looks like the best case scenario for the Yankees with the Tanaka contract is that it provides about as much value as signing any collection of domestic free agents would have, only the worst case scenarios are much, much worse. Had the Yankees not included the opt-out, this deal could have had a very good chance of working out for them. Had they structured the payments differently so that more of the guaranteed money was after the opt-out, so that they ended up with a serious bargain for the first half of the contract if things went well, then this deal probably could have worked out too. Had they simply limited it to a four year, $108 million payement in total, making Tanaka a free agent again after the 2017 season with no commitment beyond that, it would have been an expensive deal but not much more expensive than what other free agents were signing for.

But giving him the opt-out and the extra three guaranteed years seems like a mistake to me. It’s too much risk and not enough reward. For an organization that drew a line in the sand on the risk/reward proposition of Robinson Cano‘s decline phase, I don’t really see how this contract is more likely to turn out in their favor. Instead of taking a 10 year risk on an elite position player, they took a seven year risk on a questionably elite pitcher. I don’t really see too many scenarios where $240 million for Cano is insane but $175 million for Tanaka is rational. Either they’re both crazy or they’re both great, and if the Yankees really had unlimited funds, maybe they should have signed both.

But they don’t have unlimited funds, and we shouldn’t pretend that they do. In reality, the Yankees chose Tanaka over other players, and are going to go into 2014 with a flawed roster because they allocated so much of their money to outbidding everyone for Tanaka’s services. At this price, I wouldn’t be surprised if this was a decision they came to regret, and maybe sooner than later.
post #19715 of 73441
Thread Starter 
BTW, you gotta love ESPN. Chipper saves Freeman and it's top news. Chipper starts a forest fire and I only hear about it on NT laugh.gif
post #19716 of 73441
Addison Russell #3 on the prospect list smokin.gifsmokin.gif

Start him at SS next year and put Jed Lowrie at 2B glasses.gif
post #19717 of 73441
Jed will likely be gone next year.
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A T H L E T I C S | U C L A | L A K E R S | R A I D E R S

post #19718 of 73441

Sad, man. I can't imagine never watching the A's win the World Series.
A T H L E T I C S | U C L A | L A K E R S | R A I D E R S

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post #19719 of 73441
Originally Posted by Th3RealF0lkBlu3s View Post

Sad, man. I can't imagine never watching the A's win the World Series.

I chuckled but not in a malicious way......just sucks to live that long and not experience that for an obvious die hard fan

post #19720 of 73441
As a Houstionian, I was 4 and 5 when the Rockets went back to back. I was 15 when the Astros got swept in the World Series. In a decade plus, the Texans haven't even made it to an AFC championship game.

Those championship teams and moments don't have very often for most cities, so you really have to enjoy it when it happens.

The feelings when the Texans clinched their first AFC south title and when the Astros clinched a WS birth can't even be described.
post #19721 of 73441
Thread Starter 
Was gonna say you were young as hell when they made it but that was already 9 years ago sick.gif ******g time flies man.
post #19722 of 73441
Originally Posted by Th3RealF0lkBlu3s View Post

Sad, man. I can't imagine never watching the A's win the World Series.

I was born in 1991:

-The A's have never made a world series in my life
-The Raiders have made 1 super bowl, barely showed up
-The Warriors have made playoffs twice.

post #19723 of 73441
I am very lucky to have seen the Giants in the 2002, 2010 & 2012 World Series
post #19724 of 73441
6 of the top 71 prospects + the #4 pick coming up

With 3 under 25 guys already in the majors.

Please Theo, have the right pieces to turn into Tampa 2015.
post #19725 of 73441
Cubs ascendant nerd.gif
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post #19726 of 73441
Originally Posted by WearinTheFourFive View Post

Originally Posted by Th3RealF0lkBlu3s View Post

Sad, man. I can't imagine never watching the A's win the World Series.

I was born in 1991:

-The A's have never made a world series in my life
-The Raiders have made 1 super bowl, barely showed up
-The Warriors have made playoffs twice.


'91 was a great year. pimp.gif

Speaking of the Twins...They look to be something serious in the coming years. My goodness.
post #19727 of 73441
I was born in '89. The thought of the A's not winning one in my life time makes me want to vomit. sick.gifmean.gif
post #19728 of 73441
Thread Starter 
The Orioles need A.J. Burnett.
Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
There might not be a fan base that has suffered through a drearier offseason to date than that of the Baltimore Orioles, which has watched the New York Yankees import Masahiro Tanaka, Brian McCann and Carlos Beltran while the Boston Red Sox re-signed Mike Napoli and the Tampa Bay Rays added Grant Balfour.

Baltimore, meanwhile, has made more news for the deals it hasn't been able to close -- voided signings for Balfour and Tyler Colvin after physical concerns -- than the ones it has actually made. So far, all the Orioles have done is complete minor trades for infielder Jemile Weeks (more of a salary dump of useful reliever Jim Johnson than anything else) and outfielder David Lough along with signing middle reliever Ryan Webb to a two-year deal.

A quiet winter is fine when a team is in the midst of a rebuild, but the Orioles have raised expectations by winning 178 games over the past two seasons, including making it to the playoffs in 2012 for the first time since 1997. Despite that, they have rarely even been mentioned in rumors this winter and by most indications haven't made a serious push for any of the big-name free agents. Will Webb or a potential Chris Capuano or Bronson Arroyo satisfy the Baltimore faithful? Not likely.

Fortunately for the Orioles, luck just might be on their side. Somewhat unexpectedly, the market has a new "best pitcher available," one who won't demand a long-term contract or cost a draft pick and who might limit himself to a geographic area, which means the Orioles need to battle only four or five teams for his services.

He's A.J. Burnett, and Baltimore absolutely has to sign him if it's going to make something out of this winter as the 2014 season looms.

A rotation that needs help

Chris Tillman is a fine young pitcher, one who would be worthy of a home in the middle of most big league rotations, so this really isn't meant to put him down. But he is exactly why the Orioles need another good arm because he's not in the middle of Baltimore's rotation; he's at the top.

Even with an All-Star Game appearance last season -- one American League manager Jim Leyland freely admitted was given to Tillman over the superior Hiroki Kuroda simply because Tillman had a better win-loss record -- Tillman is misplaced as the ace of a team hoping to contend. Among qualifying starters, his 3.71 ERA was 50th, behind Dillon Gee and Ricky Nolasco; his 4.42 FIP was 72nd, behind Edinson Volquez and Wily Peralta. Only A.J. Griffin and Dan Haren had higher home run rates, and that's a problem that keeps Tillman from being considered an elite pitcher.

Despite pitching at 37 years old in 2013, Burnett was superior in nearly every way:

Pitcher K/9 BB/9 HR/9 GB% ERA FIP WAR
Burnett 9.85 3.16 0.52 56.5 3.30 2.80 4.0
Tillman 7.81 2.97 1.44 38.6 3.71 4.42 2.0
This illustrates Baltimore's need for an upper-level starter, and while we've compared Burnett and Tillman atop the rotation, the true impact wouldn't be to displace Tillman. The effect would be that Burnett would take innings that would otherwise go to the overrated Bud Norris, the inexperienced (though talented) Kevin Gausman or the merely decent Miguel Gonzalez. Ideally, those are the kind of pitchers you have ready to step in to fill a gap, not the ones you're counting on from the start of the season.

Best of the bunch

If we repeat the comparison with this winter's trio of non-Tanaka free-agent starters, we can see that Burnett had a better season than Ubaldo Jimenez and Ervin Santana, as well as Matt Garza, who just collected a guaranteed $50 million from Milwaukee.

Pitcher K/9 BB/9 HR/9 GB% ERA FIP WAR
Burnett 9.85 3.16 0.52 56.5 3.30 2.80 4.0
Garza 7.88 2.43 1.16 38.6 3.82 3.88 2.2
Jimenez 9.56 3.94 0.79 43.9 3.30 3.43 3.2
Santana 6.87 2.18 1.11 46.2 3.24 3.93 3.0
Yet while Garza just hit it big and Santana and Jimenez are likely to do the same, Burnett's age and apparent preference to go year-to-year at this point -- as well as the fact that he's likely to limit the teams he'll even talk to -- should keep his cost at a fraction of their price. Considering that Burnett had a solid 2012 while Jimenez and Santana were replacement-level or below, investing in him is something of a no-brainer.

While moving from the National League Central to the AL East is a concern for any pitcher, Baltimore represents a perfect fit for Burnett for another important reason.

Among all qualified big league starters, only Cleveland's Justin Masterson induced a higher ground ball rate than Burnett did, thanks to a sinker that Burnett started using as his primary pitch upon his arrival in Pittsburgh. That works with the Orioles stellar left-side defense, since third baseman Manny Machado not only led all big league third basemen in defensive runs saved but also put up the highest number at the position since the stat was first recorded in 2003. Next to him is J.J. Hardy, a good enough defender to keep Machado off his natural shortstop position and one who finished fourth in DRS at his position in 2013. (Second base is unsettled, though Ryan Flaherty would be a solid defender if he can hit enough to earn time.)

As a team, Baltimore finished fourth in DRS, and it's vital for a ground baller to pitch in front of plus gloves.

No place like home

For months, the expectation was that Burnett would either retire or return to Pittsburgh, but it now appears he's willing to pitch elsewhere. That doesn't really open up the bidding to any team because he has been consistent about not wanting to leave the area around his Monkton, Md., home, approximately 30 miles north of Baltimore. (Prior to 2012, Burnett reportedly refused to waive his no-trade clause when the Yankees attempted to move him to the Angels.)

The Phillies and Nationals could each use an additional starter, the Pirates will certainly attempt to bring him back, and both New York clubs would have interest in improving their rotations, so bringing Burnett to Baltimore won't come without a bit of a fight. But Baltimore could argue that it is closer to his home than anyone, that the Mets and Phillies are unlikely to contend and that his initial tour of the Bronx didn't go smoothly. Burnett could still decide he prefers the National League, in which case the Orioles would be out of luck. If not, they need to make sure he's wearing orange in 2014. He's a perfect fit, and he's the only impact option they have that won't cost a draft pick.

Braves must go low with Kimbrel.
Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
The arbitration case that will be made for Craig Kimbrel next month will be unique, because no reliever has started a career with three-plus seasons like Kimbrel -- 381 strikeouts among the first 883 hitters he's faced, with a 1.39 ERA and 139 saves. The Braves love Kimbrel, having drafted and developed him and promoted him into the closer's role just a couple of months into his career.

But the gap between what the Braves have offered Kimbrel -- $6.55 million -- and what Kimbrel wants in arbitration -- $9 million -- is enormous, and there’s more at stake for Atlanta in this hearing than the $2.45 million that separates the sides.

If the Braves win the case, they will give themselves a legitimate chance to keep Kimbrel for 2015. If they lose, however, then Kimbrel may be priced off the Atlanta roster sooner than anybody expects. Because arbitration cases are like building blocks, with one decision stacked upon the next.

If Kimbrel wins his case and makes $9 million in 2014, then he will be well-positioned to ask for something in the range of $14 million-$15 million next year -- or, in other words, he could become the highest-paid reliever in baseball in his second year of arbitration eligibility.

On the other hand, if the Braves win, then Kimbrel’s salary for 2015 could be closer to $10 million or $11 million, and Atlanta has a better chance to fit him within its limited budget. Even if the Braves assessed privately that Kimbrel may win his arbitration argument, it makes sense for them to roll the dice in his case in an effort to tamp down his salary, perhaps keep him longer, and augment his trade value. It even makes sense for them to bypass settlement talks, given what’s at stake. Agreeing to a new deal at the midpoint could diminish the time the Braves can retain Kimbrel.

These are not the Maddux-Glavine-Smoltz Braves, who routinely posted some of the game's highest budgets through their annual success in the '90s. Atlanta's payroll will likely rank in the bottom third of teams in 2014; the Braves actually are going to spend a little more than the Tampa Bay Rays, in fact. As written here in December, carrying the game's highest-paid closer is simply impractical, like a row house homeowner constructing a gaudy fountain in his sliver of lawn.
[+] Enlarge
Norm Hall/Getty Images
The Orioles moved Jim Johnson in a one-sided trade because they deemed his 2014 salary too high.

Think about this: Kimbrel may well be able to make more in annual salary through his three years of arbitration than he would if he went through free agency, because the game continues to evolve through a period of evaluation over the value of closers. The Baltimore Orioles, for example, just dumped a highly successful closer, Jim Johnson, in a one-sided trade because the team deemed his projected salary as too expensive for their budget.

Kimbrel strikes out almost half of the hitters he faces, in a pressure role that some relievers will tell you privately they want no part of. But there is this: In 2013, Adam Wainwright faced a Major League Baseball high of 956 hitters, and James Shields was second, with 943. Kimbrel faced 258 hitters last season. The world’s best pinch-hitters would never get the same money as someone with 600 plate appearances -- and so the question persists: What are closers worth? What are those three outs in the ninth inning worth? What is the best closer -- Kimbrel -- worth?

If Kimbrel wins his case at $9 million this year and asks for something in the range of $14 million-$15 million next year, the Braves will face a very, very difficult decision about trading one of their most effective and popular players.

Another complicating factor here is that Kimbrel’s actual value in the trade market almost certainly will be substantially less than what fans perceive that it should be, because there will be only a small handful of teams willing to pay a closer $15 million or more.

The Dodgers, perhaps. (It’s noteworthy that the Dodgers recently hired Roy Clark, who drafted Kimbrel while working for the Braves.) The Yankees. Maybe some other clubs. But with the Moneyball generation of executives focused more than ever on extracting as much production as possible for their dollars, there likely are a high number of teams forever unwilling to pay a closer like a front-line starting pitcher.

In the past, the Braves had some hope of signing Kimbrel to a long-term deal. But that probably isn’t going to happen anytime soon, and the Braves' best hope for retaining one of their best players might only come in defeating him in arbitration.


• Pitchers caps were approved, as Willie Weinbaum writes. Clayton Kershaw approves.

• The Blue Jays had a lot to say Wednesday. They already have a historically high payroll, relative to what they've spent in the past, and we’ll see if they’ll spend more. Toronto fans questioned the team's idleness.

• The Dodgers have suspended season ticket sales.

• Team officials are forbidden, by collectively bargained rules, to say for the record whether they are or are not in negotiations with a particular player, and agents are supposed to be bound by similar rules -- of indicating a team has interest when it has none, in fact. But there has been a tsunami of disinformation dispensed through media outlets this offseason, especially in the past month, raising the question of why there are any rules at all.

"It's amazing how much stuff out there is flat-out wrong," said one club official.

• Bernie Miklasz asks a great question: Who bats second for the Cardinals?

• Bronson Arroyo is still unemployed, as Jayson Stark writes.

• There is a lot of sentiment among some executives that Kendrys Morales' best play at this stage of the winter -- other than to take a salary lower than the $14.1 million qualifying offer he rejected from the Mariners last fall -- would be to wait until after the June draft to sign, which would separate him from the draft-pick compensation that hangs on him. And by then, injuries will manifest and create openings that are not there now.

But following that strategy might be really difficult for a player who already has missed the better part of two seasons in his career because of an ankle injury.

• David Ortiz wants a one-year extension. The Red Sox could simply wait until after the 2014 season is over before talking any kind of extension, but holding off on this conversation until at least early in the season -- when they can be reasonably assured by Ortiz’s performance that he has a chance to be a very productive hitter in 2015 -- would be reasonable.

Ortiz has talked about going elsewhere, but the fact is he’s worth more to the Red Sox than he is to any other team, because of his history with Boston, and because the going rate for designated hitters these days is diminished. The Yankees almost certainly will not be an option for Ortiz next fall, because of all the DH candidates they already have under contract for 2015 -- Carlos Beltran, Brian McCann, Mark Teixeira, Alex Rodriguez, et al -- and the Yankees, like other teams, increasingly prefer to use the DH position to rest regulars from other positions from day to day.

Ortiz is well worth the price, writes John Tomase.

• As expected, Lance Berkman retired.

• Nolan Ryan and the Astros had a productive talk. Folks who know Ryan say he wants a meaningful job with sway in decisions made by the baseball operations department. Jeff Luhnow oversees all baseball decisions for the Astros.

Moves, deals and decisions

1. The Tigers hired Lance Parrish.

2. The Royals added some outfield depth.

3. Daniel Descalso agreed to terms with the Cardinals.

4. The Reds signed Ramon Santiago.

5. Scott Baker signed with the Mariners.

6. The Twins re-signed Matt Guerrier, as John Shipley writes.

7. Jeff Blair wonders if A.J. Burnett could return to the Jays.

8. The Orioles are definitely interested in Burnett, writes Dan Connolly. The emergence of Burnett in the free-agent market further muddies the water for the two pitchers attached to draft-pick compensation, Ervin Santana and Ubaldo Jimenez.

Dings and dents

• Manny Machado is going to be examined this week.

AL West

• Brennan Boesch, who signed with the Angels, is too young to disappear, writes Tom Gage.

• Some Rangers are playing in the Caribbean Series.

AL Central

• There are high expectations for the Royals.

• An Indians prospect is hungry for more.

AL East

• CC Sabathia is happy the Yankees have a pair of aces.

• Brian Roberts says that in a lot of ways, he’ll always be an Oriole.

NL Central

• The Brewers' baseball academy schedules are set.

• The Pirates got it right with A.J. Burnett, writes Ron Cook.

NL East

• A.J. Burnett would fill a need for the Phillies.

2014 Top 10 Prospects: Philadelphia Phillies.
Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
The Phillies system starts off nicely but drops off rapidly after the third slot. Serious injuries have taken a huge bite out of the rankings for players such as shortstop Roman Quinn, catcher Tommy Joseph, as well as pitchers Shane Watson and Adam Morgan.

#1 Maikel Franco | 65/AA (3B)
20 581 173 36 31 30 70 1 .320 .356 .569 .411
The Year in Review: Franco enjoyed a breakout season at the plate in 2013 while splitting the year between High-A and Double-A. In total, he slugged 70 extra base hits — including 31 homers — and hit more than .300, which helped pull up his on-base percentage despite a low walk rate. Franco did a nice job of making hard contact and struck out about 12% of the time.

The Scouting Report: Offensively, Franco’s key tool is his plus power, which comes from his above-average bat speed. For a power hitter, he makes unusually-high contact but he’s too aggressive at times and struggles with his pitch recognition. He can also be quite streaky at times. Franco will look to increase his versatility in 2014 while reportedly splitting his time between the hot corner and first base. He has a strong arm, which would be wasted at first base, but his range is just average at the hot corner and will likely head in the wrong direction once he starts to fill out more and slow down.

The Year Ahead: Franco murdered Double-A pitchers in 69 games last year so a strong spring could push him to Triple-A. If he keeps hitting like he did in 2013, the Dominican third baseman could displace MLB sophomore Cody Asche during the second half of the season.

The Career Outlook: The corner infielder reminds me of a young Edwin Encarnacion and he could eventually develop into a middle-of-the-order threat for the Phillies.

#2 Jesse Biddle | 60/AA (P)
21 27 27 138.1 104 10 10.02 5.33 3.64 3.76
The Year in Review: It was an up and down year for the southpaw. Biddle struck out 154 batters (the third highest total in the Eastern League) in 138.1 innings and was hard to hit (104 base knocks) but he struggled with both his command and control, as witnessed by his 82 walks — which led the league.

The Scouting Report: Like with many young, talented pitchers, Biddle will live and die by his command and control. The good news is that there are no major red flags surrounding his delivery so they will hopefully sort themselves out with addition innings and experience. Biddle has an average fastball in the low 90s, and he backs that up with a promising curveball and a good changeup. He has a strong frame that suggests he could eventually develop into a workhorse capable of providing 200+ innings a year.

The Year Ahead: Biddle should move up to Triple-A in 2014 if the Phillies feel his issues with finding the plate are improving.

The Career Outlook: Biddle has a high ceiling but he’ll have to become more consistent to realize his full potential.

#3 J.P. Crawford | 60/R (SS)
18 228 60 9 1 32 35 14 .308 .405 .400 .390
The Year in Review: The 16th overall selection from the 2013 amateur draft, Crawford hit better than expected during his pro debut. He posted a .908 OPS in 39 Rookie ball games to earn a promotion to Low-A ball. He struggled in 14 games after the promotion but still did a nice job of controlling the strike zone. He played solid defense all season long.

The Scouting Report: A premium athlete, Crawford has a chance to develop into the Phillies’ shortstop of the future based solely on his defensive acumen. He has a strong arm with smooth actions and solid range at shortstop. He has enough speed to steal 15+ bases in a season and beat out a few infield singles. His offensive game needs the most work. Crawford, 19, needs to become stronger at the plate and quicker to the ball but he has solid bat speed and makes decent contact.

The Year Ahead: Crawford should return to Low-A ball in 2014 and will likely spend most, if not all, of the year at that level.

The Career Outlook: Carl Crawford’s cousin could be a four-tool star but he’ll have to continue to develop his bat as he moves up through the minors.

#4 Miguel Alfredo Gonzalez | 55/DNP
The Year in Review: Gonzalez hasn’t thrown much in the past few years due to his defection attempts and time off while sorting out his impending move to Major League Baseball.

The Scouting Report: The enigma. Depending who you speak to, Gonzalez is either a future No. 3/4 starter or a middle reliever. The right-hander has a low-90s fastball that can hit the mid-90s and he backs it up with a splitter, changeup and inconsistent breaking ball. One challenge Gonzalez will face will be working down in the zone more consistently. Injury concerns caused his first pro contract to be reworked after the Phillies front office saw something in his medical reports that they didn’t like.

The Year Ahead: As alluded to above, no one knows what to expect from Gonzalez but the Phillies expect him to contribute at the big league level right away. The spring time storyline will be fun to watch.

The Career Outlook: Again, time will tell when it comes to just what kind of impact the 27-year-old Cuban has for the Phillies in 2014 and beyond.

#5 Severino Gonzalez | 55/AA (P)
20 25 14 103.2 84 5 10.33 1.91 2.00 2.25
The Year in Review: The native of Panama saw his prospect value increase significantly in 2013 after entering the year off almost everyone’s radar. He played at three levels and began the year in Low-A before ending the season in Double-A. He made a total of 25 appearances but just 14 starts. He broke the century mark in innings pitched for the first time in his pro career.

The Scouting Report: Gonzalez is a command/control pitcher with just enough fastball velocity to make things interesting. The skinny right-hander throws in the low-90s with his heater but it’s almost more notable for its movement. He throws two breaking balls — a curveball and a slider — and occasionally mixes in a changeup. There are some durability concerns with Gonzalez’s slender frame and his 14 starts in 2013 tied a career high.

The Year Ahead: Gonzalez appeared in just one Double-A game so he’ll almost certainly return to that level in 2014 after spending most of the previous season in A-ball. He’ll look to solidify his status as a future big league starter.

The Career Outlook: The 21-year-old hurler doesn’t have a massive ceiling but he has a good chance to be a long-term big league contributor with the floor of a long reliever/spot starter and ceiling of a No. 3/4 starter.

#6 Carlos Tocci | 55/A- (OF)
17 459 88 17 0 22 77 6 .209 .261 .249 .245
The Year in Review: For good or bad, the Phillies have been aggressive with Tocci and he was assigned to full-season ball in 2013 despite the fact that he didn’t turn 18 until late August. He struggled in 118 games and hit just .209 with a .510 OPS. He was completely lost in the second half of the season with an OPS hovering around .400.

The Scouting Report: Tocci is all about projection. He shows flashes of developing into a good hitter because of his advanced approach but he needs to get stronger and add muscle to his slender frame. Pitchers aren’t afraid to go right after him because he lacks pop — even when he hits the ball on the screws. Defensively, he projects to develop into an above-average center-fielder with good range and a strong arm.

The Year Ahead: Tocci should return to Low-A ball to open the season. If he shows some signs of life, though, he might spend a little time in High-A ball before the year is up.

The Career Outlook: The Venezuelan outfielder still has a lot of filling out to do and until he does he’ll continue to be overpowered by opposing pitchers.

#7 Aaron Altherr | 55/A+ (OF)
22 576 137 39 12 47 148 25 .268 .331 .438 .351
The Year in Review: Altherr enjoyed the best offensive season of his career but that performance came in A-ball and during fifth pro season. The 140 strikeouts in 123 games is worrisome but the increase in pop (.455 slugging percentage) is promising.

The Scouting Report: A superb athlete, Altherr is a long-term project. The Phillies have tinkered with his swing and it’s still long and inconsistent. He generates enough bat speed to put a charge into the ball when he makes good contact. If he learns to make enough contact he could hit 20+ home runs but he may never produce a strong on-base percentage. He also has above-average speed and plays a good centre field thanks to his solid range and strong arm.

The Year Ahead: Altherr will face a stiff test with his contact rates when he moves up and faces the more advanced pitchers and tougher environments of the Double-A Eastern League.

The Career Outlook: The Arizona native has a lot of polishing to do on his overall game but he has a chance to develop into an average or better regular if he can trim the Ks.

#8 Roman Quinn | 50/A- (SS)
20 298 62 7 5 27 64 32 .238 .323 .346 .317
The Year in Review: Quinn began the year with three inconsistent months at the plate and then missed the second half of the year due to a fractured wrist. He managed to steal more than 30 bases before getting hurt.

The Scouting Report: Quinn’s best asset is his plus-plus speed, which helped him swipe 32 bases in 67 games in 2013. He’s a switch-hitter who’s still working on pitch recognition and he also needs to improve his two-strike approach and better understand what pitchers are trying to do to get him out. Defensively, he’s still working to smooth out his actions but he has a good arm and above-average range at shortstop.

The Year Ahead: After missing the second half of 2013, Quinn spend all of 2014 rehabbing from surgery to repair a ruptured Achilles’ tendon that occurred in November.

The Career Outlook: A year and a half of missed development time is the absolute last thing that this prospect needed while looking to jumpstart his offense.

#9 Cesar Hernandez | 50/MLB (2B/OF)
23 131 6.9 % 19.8 % .289 .344 .331 .305 90 -3.3 -3.9 -0.4
The Year in Review: It took five years for Hernandez to climb above the A-ball level but he finally reached the Majors in 2013. Prior to his promotion to The Show, the young Venezuelan performed well in Triple-A and stole 32 bases in 107 games. At the big league level, Hernandez split time at two positions but he was overpowered at the plate.

The Scouting Report: Another athletic player, Hernandez improved his versatility in 2013 by spending time in center field after playing most of his career at second base. He is a very good defensive second baseman and shows flashes of developing into an above-average outfielder. At the plate, he has a line-drive approach, which works well with his plus speed. He needs to get stronger and he strikes out too much for a player who should be focusing on getting on base and utilizing his legs.

The Year Ahead: Philadelphia doesn’t project to have the most potent back-up infielders so a strong spring could help Hernandez beat out Freddy Galvis or Kevin Frandsen for a roster spot.

The Career Outlook: Hernandez likely won’t see much time as a big league regular but he could develop into a value back-up player capable of playing both the infield and the outfield.

Additional Notes

#10 Tommy Joseph | 50/AA (C)
21 131 22 4 3 7 30 0 .179 .229 .285 .240
The Year in Review: Injuries wiped out Joseph’s season and concussion concerns could threaten the young catcher’s future behind the plate. Before getting hurt, though, his offense sputtered and he was demoted from Triple-A. He later played at both High-A and Double-A.

The Scouting Report: Joseph is an offensive-minded catcher with above-average, right-handed power. He has an inconsistent approach at the plate and doesn’t project to get on base at a terribly high rate. He shows a strong arm behind the plate and has had some success controlling the running game but he needs work on his receiving, blocking and game calling.

The Year Ahead: Joseph will look to stay healthy in 2014 and will need to avoid suffering another significant blow to the head, which is by no means an easy task for a catcher. He’ll open the year back in Double-A.

The Career Outlook: It’s hard to envision Joseph remaining behind the plate for his entire career. If he does in fact have to move at some point it will put a significant strain on expectations surrounding his offensive production.

The Next Five:

11. Andrew Knapp, C: An offensive-minded catcher, Knapp is still relatively new to the position so he’ll be given some time to improve his receiving, game calling, blocking and throwing –although he does show above-average arm strength. Where he really shines, though, is at the plate. He’s a switch-hitter with good power potential but he needs to make a little more contact if he’s going to hit for average as he moves up the organizational ladder.

12. Dylan Cozens, OF: Cozens, 19, is a huge kid at 6-6, 235 pounds. He’s still learning the finer aspects of the game after splitting his focus in high school between baseball and football. He has above-average raw power from the left side. He runs well for his size and has a strong arm; he projects as a power-hitting right-fielder.

13. Cord Sandberg, OF: Similar to Cozens, Sandberg was a two-sport star in high school and turned down the opportunity to play college football. He has above-average, left-handed power but is still learning to tap into it in game situations. He has good bat speed. Sandberg has a patient approach and has an idea at the plate. Defensively, he should be above-average in left field thanks to his range and solid arm.

14. Shane Watson, RHP: A big, strong-bodied right-hander, the 40th overall selection in the 2012 draft looked like a future steal but shoulder surgery will wipe out most of his 2014 season. When healthy, he flashes two potentially-plus offerings in his low-to-mid-90s fastball and curveball. His changeup also has a chance to be average.

15. Adam Morgan, LHP: Morgan was well on his way to becoming one of the best left-handed pitchers in the minors before injuries derailed his career. When healthy, he shows an above-average fastball and two solid secondary pitches. Shoulder surgery will knock him out of action for most, if not all, of 2014.

The Myth of the Royals and 2014.
Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
To me, it isn’t fair to evaluate trades in retrospect. While there can be significance there, it’ll be out-shouted by all the random noise, and you can only ever make a decision based upon the information that you have at the time. But we can still look at trades in retrospect, just to see how they worked out, and of course there’s some insight in exploring the deal that swapped James Shields and another for Wil Myers and others. Plenty was written here about the trade at the time. Shields was worth 4.5 WAR last year, and he projects for 4 WAR this year. Myers was worth 2.4 WAR last year in a partial season, and he projects for 3 WAR this year. Shields is expensive and in his contract season. Myers is cheap and under control forever. This was basically the problem all along, even ignoring all the other parts, which can’t be ignored.

I don’t think opinions of the trade have changed. Those who supported the Royals going for it still applaud the boldness. Those who criticized the Royals going for it still believe it was a poorly-timed mistake. The move was controversial enough that people have dug in to their positions, and those minds are all made up. I’m definitely still on the critical side, myself. I thought it was too short-term of a move for a team that wasn’t ready. But a lot of people have taken this one step further. There’s a common belief that, by making the trade, the Royals gave themselves a two-year window, before losing Shields to free agency. The first year is gone. So there’s one year left of the window, but really, there’s not. The truth is a lot less black and a lot less white.

Submitted to Dave’s earlier FanGraphs chat:

Comment From Dan
What’s the current window for the Royals? Can they make a playoff push in 2014?
Dave Cameron: Sure, and then they’re going to have to figure something else out when James Shields wants $150 million.

Here’s the outline of it: the Royals have put together a decent team for the 2014 season. Could be a contender. Might still make another move. Shields is by far the best starter on the team, and maybe the best player. Shields’ chances of returning after 2014 are virtually nil, since he’ll be expensive and the Royals can’t afford to commit those kinds of free-agent dollars. So a year from now, the Royals will lose an important player, picking up only a draft pick. This is supposed to signal the end of their window of contention.

Obviously, losing Shields does more harm than good, but it seems like this is a classic case of overrating the impact of any one given player, non-Trout division. Granted, that’s the same thought process that brought Shields to Kansas City in the first place, and granted, Shields isn’t the only guy the Royals stand to lose next offseason. Norichika Aoki will be a free agent. Luke Hochevar will be a free agent. Billy Butler has a club option, but it’s somewhat pricey. But this gets to something I touched on the other day: teams aren’t that fragile. The Royals are more than an individual good starting pitcher, and it’s not like the trade completely thinned the system out.

Regarding the prospects, Marc Hulet had some flattering things to say. The same goes for Baseball America. Keith Law ranked the Royals’ system seventh-best in baseball, between the Mets and the Rockies. He wrote:

This wave of talent is shallower than the last one, but the Royals’ biggest window of contention is going to start very soon.

If you’re looking for potential Shields replacements, you need look no further than Yordano Ventura and Kyle Zimmer. Absolutely, each has plenty to prove, but they’re also upper-class starting prospects who aren’t far away from the majors. Ventura already got there late last season, and he’s among the very hardest-throwing starters in the world. There are questions about his changeup, but the velocity gives him a hell of a margin of error. Zimmer has limited experience above Single-A, but he has stuff and a track record of being overpowering, and he’s college-polished. Few systems boast two starters of this ability and this proximity to the bigs, and both could be 25-30-start guys a year from now. Ventura might be that guy this year. ZiPS gave him Matt Clement, but then Clement was pretty useful before his arm was destroyed.

The Royals stand to lose Shields, but they stand to promote from within, and in the event of injury the depth goes beyond just those two prospects. It’s probably worth noting that Danny Duffy has all kinds of upside potential if he’s actually healthy these days. The team’s locked into Jason Vargas and Jeremy Guthrie, but Vargas should remain useful and Guthrie isn’t a total mess.

The position-player side is as stuck as it is interesting. It’s difficult to upgrade, because just about every spot is occupied by someone decent or young and potentially decent. But what that means is there’s promise remaining, and the fact that Eric Hosmer started to hit means Mike Moustakas could still improve. The system, also, has talented position players — they just aren’t as close to being impact players as Ventura and Zimmer. What the Royals have in 2014, they could basically have in 2015 if they wanted, sans Aoki, who’s simply all right. There aren’t really stars but there aren’t really holes.

What’s most assuredly clear is that the Royals aren’t going to have it easy. They’re a good deal worse than the Tigers this coming season, and the season after that could lean heavily on a couple hard-throwing young pitching prospects. They’ll be able to re-invest some money saved on Shields and Hochevar and Aoki and others, but that sum also isn’t very big, and the Royals are a smaller-budget operation. They need to have a fairly constant infusion of cheap youth, and that’s another way that exchanging Myers for Shields worked against their own best interests. They need guys like Myers more than they need guys like Shields.

But I think it’s fair and entirely reasonable to hold two simultaneous positions:

The Royals made a mistake, in making the Shields trade
The trade wasn’t crippling and the team can succeed even after Shields is gone
There is no 2013-2014 window. The Royals don’t need to behave as if it’s 2014 or bust, and they haven’t behaved that way, really. It was a trade intended to improve two seasons at a long-term cost, but it hasn’t been devastating to the organizational health, and it’s okay if the Royals don’t make the playoffs this October. More people at that point would look at the Shields move as an error, but I feel like we already know that much to be true. But most errors, teams can survive, and while the Royals could be worse without Shields, they won’t go from good to bad. It’s not binary. As usual, it’ll be nothing but a matter of percentage points.

To me, the Royals made one of the worst realistic trades you can make. Today they’re sitting in a half-decent position, for both the present and for the future. The lesson is — well, there are a lot of lessons. The important thing is to learn them.

The Rising Price and Length of Free Agent Contracts.
Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
The 2013-2014 free agent season isn’t over yet. Ubaldo Jimenez, Ervin Santana, A.J. Burnett, Stephen Drew, Kendrys Morales, Nelson Cruz, and Bronson Arroyo are still on the market and in most cases are looking for multi-year contracts. Between just those seven, I’d imagine MLB teams will probably commit somewhere between $250 and $300 million, and when they do, they’re going to push total spending on free agent contracts handed out this winter over $2 billion.

I’m not breaking any news here, but the rapid increase in free agent contracts over the last five years is still pretty staggering. Just for fun, I pulled all the data for Major League contracts signed for each of the last five years from ESPN’s free agent tracker, and dumped the data into a spreadsheet. Here are some total numbers for each of the last five free agent classes.

Year MLB Contracts Multi-Year Contracts Total Years Total Dollars Average Years Average Salary
2009 121 32 174 $846,795,000 1.4 $4,866,638
2010 124 43 198 $1,305,955,000 1.6 $6,595,732
2011 106 30 182 $1,366,988,058 1.7 $7,510,923
2012 89 42 165 $1,337,125,000 1.9 $8,103,788
2013 89 48 184 $1,775,075,000 2.1 $9,647,147
We already have seen more multi-year contracts signed this off-season than any of the previous four, and depending on how many of the second tier pitchers — Chris Capuano, Paul Maholm, Jason Hammel, etc… — land two year deals, there’s probably another 10 to go. If a couple of the available relievers end up snagging two year contracts as well, we could see the off-season end with 60 multi-year deals, almost double the number given out five years ago, and that’s with a smaller total number of MLB contracts handed out.

And the overall annual average value of contracts handed out this winter is almost exactly double the overall AAV of contracts handed out in 2009: $9.65 million to $4.87 million. We all know that the cost of signing a free agent has gone up a lot since these new TV deals started making MLB teams richer than they’ve ever been, but I didn’t realize just how quickly the total numbers had doubled.

Now, those averages for 2013 will come down a bit by the time the off-season is over, as there aren’t any more mega contracts to be signed that will drive those prices up, and there’s still a decent amount of filler arms that will likely sign low dollar one year deals before spring training opens. But of the 147 players who filed for free agency, we’re probably only looking at 100-115 Major League contracts, and it’s very possible that, for the first time in MLB free agent history, that most of the MLB contracts handed out will be multi-year deals, not one year pacts.

The death of the one year contract looks particularly stark if you focus on the last two off-seasons versus the prior three. From 2009 to 2011, 105 of the 351 MLB deals handed out were for two years or more, or just 30% of the total. In 2012 and 2013, 90 of the 178 contracts we’ve seen signed have been for two years or more, or 51% of the total. Even if we see a late barrage of one year deals, the one year/multi-year breakdown is still going to come in around 50/50 for the second year in a row, after being between 25/75 and 35/65 for most of the free agent periods that came before.

As MLB teams get more secured long term revenues, they’ve been more willing to give out longer guaranteed contracts, knowing that even if their attendance crashes, they’ve still got enough TV money around to pay their future commitments. And, of course, with more money in the game than ever before, the price to sign a free agent even on a short term deal has gone up as well. The surge in total spending has been driven by an increase in both price and length, which has pushed the average overall free agent contract from $7 million in 2009 to $20 million in 2013. The rate of increase has been slightly faster in AAV than in years, but both are clearly trending upwards.

And keep in mind, none of this data includes the explosion of free-agent priced extensions that we’ve seen in recent years. From Joey Votto to Clayton Kershaw — with Felix Hernandez, Justin Verlander, and many others in between — it has become pretty normal for non-free agents to sign contracts that rival the largest free agent deals in any given off-season, and this data isn’t capturing any of those commitments, so the total rise in recent contract expenditures over the last few years is probably even greater than these numbers show.

This is mostly a post without a conclusion, as I’m not really trying to make any broad points other than just to present some information, but I will say this: it is evidently clear that free agent prices have been trending upwards pretty rapidly over the last five years, and there’s no real indication that this trend is going to slow down any time soon, at least while cable companies are tying their long team success to the exclusive rights to show live sporting events. So, in the interest of having a conclusion, I’ll simply say this: perhaps the MLBPA should send a really big thank you card to Netflix, Amazon, Redbox, and all the other companies that are threatening the old cable business models. Major League free agents are getting very rich thanks to those companies existence.

New Protective Hats Raise Questions Regarding Usefulness.
Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
Though it can sometimes occur, we do not watch baseball for the violence. That is reserved for football — the bone-crushing hits, the gruesome tackles, the cringe-worthy collisions. Baseball is supposed to transcend that. It’s a game of athleticism, certainly, but it’s about grace and fluidity and unencumbered effort. This is not to say that baseball is without contact of course. There are the double-play-breaking slides at second, the collisions at home. Major League Baseball has taken measures to combat the latter, and, very recently, to take on another injury concern — players getting hit by batted balls.

We remember Ray Chapman certainly, who was struck in the head with a pitch and remains the only player to die on a major league field. The baseball itself underwent fundamental changes after that incident in 1920. There’s also Mike Coolbaugh, the minor-league first base coach that was killed after being hit in the head by a foul boul. Major League Baseball has reacted to this as well, making base coaches wear batting helmets while on the field. On Tuesday, it was announced that MLB has approved a new type of hat geared toward protecting the heads of pitchers from line drives. This, on the surface, is a good thing. It’s a good thing on any layer, but if the goal is really to protect pitchers on the mound, it still might not be enough.
The new caps, produced by a company called isoBlox, are specifically padded to provide a pitcher head protection should a line drive find him during a game. They have approximately .5″ of padding in the front and 1″ of padding on the sides. The hat looks like this:

And therein lies the first problem — it’s going to be hard to get players to wear them. Ball caps are made to feel like they’re not there. A hat that sticks out an inch on either side is bound to be noticeable, and distracting to a pitcher. It also weighs about twice as much as a normal cap. We’re talking about ounces here, but if a part of a uniform suddenly weighs twice as much, it’s bound to be bothersome.

One of the more publicized cases of a pitcher getting struck in the head with a batted ball came in 2012, when Brandon McCarthy was hit with a line drive. His skull was fractured and he needed surgery to alleviate pressure that had built in his skull. He also suffered a seizure due to his injuries. If anyone were to be an advocate for this new head gear, it would be McCarthy. Yet, in a story published by ESPN, he is quoted as saying he wouldn’t wear the hat, saying it is too bulky, too hot, and too noticeable. He seems for the idea of protection in general, but not in the way it was presented Tuesday.

Even if a pitcher were to wear this new hat, electing to deal with the bulkiness and heat that goes with it, there is a chance that it may not even protect him from many line drives. The hat is designed to withstand frontal impacts of 90 MPH and side impacts of 85 MPH. This meets MLB’s requirement, as it has deemed — through independent study — that the average speed of a line drive when it reaches the mound is around 83 MPH. This is where the second problem arises.

Dr. Alan Nathan, professor emeritus at the University of Illinois, has done extensive research on the physics of baseball. Citing publicly-made HITf/x data from April 2009, he says that line drives to the mound average a bit faster.

“The average of such batted balls is 90 MPH,” says Nathan. “But there are a significant number exceeding 95 MPH. Balls hit that fast are on the cusp of a pitcher’s ability to react. At 100 MPH, a pitcher has about 0.4 sec[onds] to react. At 80 MPH, it is more like 0.5 sec[onds]. That extra 0.1 sec[onds] makes a very big difference.”

However, Nathan says that the protection would not be without merit.

“Protection designed for 80 will certainly help when the actual speed is 100. Something is better than nothing. Perhaps even a lot better […]

While 80 mph is definitely below the speed where such impacts occur, using such protection certainly will help for the higher-speed collisions.”

Dr. Nathan pointed to a few examples of balls exceeding 90 MPH that struck pitchers in the head, including (note: the following videos are not for the squeamish)David Huff in 2010 (101 MPH), Alex Cobb in 2013 (102 MPH), and J.A. Happ in in 2013 (97.4 MPH). While protection of any kind would have helped negate some of the force of these balls, none of these pitchers would have been fully protected had they been wearing this new hat. And while most players might be reluctant to wear it, it may be most beneficial to the recently-concussed players in those days following a concussive episode.

The affect of concussions on players has certainly been a point of contention in football, but baseball seems to be taking some strides as well. In 2011, a new seven-day disabled list was introduced, specifically designed for players with concussion-like symptoms. This was to allow them time for their symptoms to recede before they took the field again. Additionally, players were required to wear a new style of batting helmet in 2013 to combat concussions caused by pitches to the head. This helmet was originally utilized by players who had suffered a recent concussion.

Dr. Semyon Slobounov, director of the Virtual Reality/Traumatic Brain Injury Research Laboratory at Penn State University, says that there are still two schools of thought when it comes to repeated concussions. One says that they should be treated as separate events, the other says they should be treated as cumulative. However, he pointed to studies that concluded that the shorter the distance between concussive events, the more susceptible one would be to post-concussive symptoms. There are also studies that state the more concussions one encounters, the heavier the post-concussive symptoms become, says Slobounov. These conclusions are still being debated, however, as methodology remains a point of discussion.

Head injuries are head injuries and anything that helps prevent them are valuable. This first stab at protecting pitchers isn’t perfect, but first stabs rarely are. It is promising to see MLB taking steps toward injury prevention of any kind, even though this attempt may not see much on-field action. A long while back, batting helmets weren’t used in the game at all. Neither were ankle guards or elbow pads or hockey-style catchers masks. The game evolves with safety slowly but surely, and even though these new hats are big and goofy and hot, it’s not out of the realm of possibility to envision a version of them being used regularly in our lifetimes.
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Thread Starter 
Top 10 prospects (AL East).
Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)

Orioles' Top 10
Player, POS (Top 100 rank)
1. Kevin Gausman, RHP (23)
2. Dylan Bundy, RHP (31)
3. Hunter Harvey, RHP (38)
4. E. Rodriguez, LHP (43)
5. J. Schoop, 2B/3B (86)
6. Mike Wright, RHP
7. Chance Sico, C
8. Josh Hart, CF
9. Adrian Marin, SS
10. Tim Berry, LHP
Baltimore Orioles
Org rank: 10

Farm system overview

This is the strongest that the Orioles' system has been in years, with five legitimate starting pitching prospects, two likely to contribute this season, and some growth in position-player depth.

Hunter Harvey, their first pick in the 2013 draft, took a big step forward after signing thanks to some delivery fine-tuning, and catcher Chance Sisco, their second pick, is a better receiver than expected despite the fact that he only began catching full-time last spring. The system also includes Henry Urrutia, an older Cuban outfielder who might be a platoon DH option; Michael Ohlman, a below-average defensive catcher who might have a bench role because he can hit and has at least gap power; and 22nd-rounder Jon Keller, signed from NCAA Division II Tampa, who threw 98 mph in rookie ball, but with a rough, reliever-only delivery.

2014 impact

You'll see Kevin Gausman in the big leagues quite a bit this year in the rotation or the pen; I wouldn't mind seeing him break back in as a reliever, but only if that means longer outings where he can continue to develop his slider. Mike Wright should also get a trial in the back of the Orioles' rotation at some point; he's up to 96 mph with an average change and fringy curveball. Jonathan Schoop should see some major league time this year at second base if he's fully healthy.

The fallen

Branden Kline was their No. 7 prospect in 2013, but broke his right fibula in a conditioning drill in May and didn't return until the Arizona Fall League; now 22 years old, he has yet to pitch above low Class A. The Orioles also traded three of their top 10 prospects from last year, sending Nick Delmonico to Milwaukee and both L.J. **** and Josh Hader to Houston.


Olelky Peralta was a free agent signed out of the Dominican Republic for $325,000, and blew scouts away in instructional league, hitting 95 mph with his fastball, showing good rotation on a curveball and demonstrating the ability to throw his fastball for strikes. Some teams thought Peralta was ineligible to sign until July, which may be why his bonus was a little lower -- but credit the Orioles for jumping on the opportunity to land a projectable 6-foot-5 right-hander with an electric arm.

Red Sox's Top 10
Player, POS (Top 100 rank)
1. Xander Bogaerts, SS (2)
2. Henry Owens, LHP (42)
3. Jackie Bradley Jr., CF (51)
4. Garin Cecchini, 3B (53)
5. Blake Swihart, C (56)
6. Mookie Betts, 2B (61)
7. Matt Barnes, RHP (89)
8. Allen Webster, RHP
9. Anthony Ranaudo, RHP
10. Trey Ball, LHP
Boston Red Sox
Org rank: 4

Farm system overview

Because what the world wanted to hear was that the defending World Series champs have one of the game's best and deepest systems, right? The Red Sox have drafted exceedingly well the past few years, loading the system with up-the-middle position-player talent, along with a handful of starters boasting mid-rotation upside.

Xander Bogaerts showed flashes in October of why he's a potential monster, with a mature approach at the plate and strong, quick wrists. Henry Owens' fastball and breaking ball were both much better in 2013 than in 2012, without giving up any of the deception that made him hard to hit before last season.

The No. 11 prospect in the system, had I continued, is premium defensive catcher Christian Vazquez, who isn't a great offensive prospect but makes so much contact that he'll likely end up an average to above-average regular overall. Lefty Brian Johnson still could be a No. 4 or 5 starter, and showed a little extra velocity in instructional league.

Boston took a few project guys in the 2013 draft after first-rounder Trey Ball, including fallen idol Jon Denney, a catcher who came into the spring as a surefire first-rounder but struggled badly down the stretch as he lost strength and energy; and Teddy Stankiewicz, an excellent athlete who can hit 94-95 mph with good command, thanks to a repeatable delivery. And they signed 16-year-old Dominican third baseman Rafael Devers, a left-handed hitter with big-time power and a very good swing, for $1.5 million in August.

2014 impact

Bogaerts should be their every-day shortstop; I'm not convinced there's a $6 million gap between what he'll provide and what Stephen Drew would provide, let alone a $12 million one. Jackie Bradley Jr. appears on track to be the Opening Day center fielder. Allen Webster and Anthony Ranaudo should get starts whenever Boston needs to fill in for someone in the major league rotation. Webster needs to show he can command his fastball, especially in the lower half, while Ranaudo was all over the place both times I saw him last year, and has to iron out some timing issues around his landing.

The fallen

Their 2012 first-rounder, Deven Marrero, slugged .317 on the year across two levels, and there's not a lot you can do to paper over that. He can still play excellent defense at short, and was 27-for-29 on stolen base attempts despite a hamstring pull early in the season, but right now he looks like a No. 8 or 9 hitter in the big leagues whom pitchers might blow away with better velocity.


Last year's sleeper, Manuel Margot, would be No. 12 in the system now, and could make the leap next year with a full season in low Class A. He's an above-average defender in center who can run and throw and takes good at-bats for someone who won't turn 20 until September.

Yankees' Top 10
Player, POS (Top 100 rank)
1. Gary Sanchez, C (68)
2. Tyler Austin, RF (85)
3. Mason Williams, CF (87)
4. J.R. Murphy, C
5. Slade Heathcott, CF
6. Aaron Judge, CF
7. Ian Clarkin, LHP
8. Eric Jagielo, 3B
9. Luis Severino, RHP
10. Greg Bird, 1B
New York Yankees
Org rank: 20

Farm system overview

What a miserable year for the Yankees on the farm. Tyler Austin, Mason Williams, Slade Heathcott, Aaron Judge, Ian Clarkin and Gabe Encinas all got hurt, with Judge missing the entire summer after the Yankees nabbed him with one of their three first-round picks. For most of those guys, the injuries just meant lost years, but in Heathcott's case, there's a legitimate question about whether he can ever stay healthy enough to be an every-day player.

Gary Sanchez was healthy, but just didn't hit anywhere close to expectations. J.R. Murphy's year was the brightest spot, as he's going to be an every-day catcher for somebody. Greg Bird's patience/power game could make him a second-division regular down the road. Luis Severino's three-pitch mix might be three pluses out of the pen, and it's a grade-65 or 70 fastball even in the rotation. However, he's less than 6-foot, and he has to prove he can maintain his stuff over a full season when going six innings every time out.

Their 2013 second-round pick, California prep second baseman Gosuke Katoh, had the best year of all of their high selections, tearing up the rookie-level Gulf Coast League with great plate discipline while playing strong defense.

2014 impact

Other than some relief help from someone like right-hander Mark Montgomery or hard-throwing and often-hurt Jose Ramirez (No. 11 in their system), the Yankees aren't likely to give any significant playing time to rookies this year.

The fallen

Heathcott can't stay healthy and had to have more work done on one of his knees after he tried to play through it all year. He couldn't run, his reads in center were poor, and his makeup has never been his strong suit. (One scout: "He's legitimately a crazy person." That scout is not a real doctor, however.) Heathcott fell off the top 100 entirely, and I don't see him returning there until he has a full, productive season.


Aside from Severino, whom I mentioned above and who could be a No. 3 starter or more if his size doesn't preclude a future in the rotation, the Yankees have to be excited about Venezuelan catcher Luis Torrens, whom they signed for $1.3 million in July 2012. A new convert to catching, Torrens took to it extremely well, with plus hands and plus defense overall, with a good swing and feel at the plate, only lacking power but likely hitting for average with good OBP when he develops.

Rays' Top 10
Player, POS (Top 100 rank)
1. Taylor Guerrieri, RHP (66)
2. Hak-Ju Lee, SS (79)
3. Nick Ciuffo, C (95)
4. Alex Colome, RHP
5. Enny Romero, LHP
6. Ryne Stanek, RHP
7. Jake Odorizzi, RHP
8. Drew Vettleson, RF
9. Oscar Hernandez, C
10. Jose Mujica, RHP
Tampa Bay Rays
Org rank: 23

Farm system overview

The Rays use their system aggressively to fill out their major league roster and depend on it to provide a steady flow of prospects who can handle all kinds of roles. The pipeline is starting to dry up, as their drafts have been less productive since 2007, when they selected David Price and Matt Moore.

Taylor Guerrieri, still their best prospect, blew out his elbow in July and earned a 50-game suspension after a second positive drug test. Hak-Ju Lee had his ankle destroyed on a double-play ball, and it remains to be seen how much of his speed and defense is still there post-surgery. They capitalized on two late first-round picks with premium receiver Nick Ciuffo and right-hander Ryne Stanek, who would have been a top-10 pick if not for injury concern. As usual, the Rays have a slew of power arms from Latin America in their system, mostly future relievers but a few with chances to start.

2014 impact

Alex Colome and Enny Romero are both likely to get big league time this year, at least in the pen. Jake Odorizzi is probably the first starter up if any of the Rays' five starters needs to miss a start or two, and Lee could be up by midyear if he hasn't lost too much quickness.

The fallen

Jake Hager, my sleeper for the Rays last year, just did not hit at all in 2013, putting up a .258/.318/.305 line at age 20 in the high Class A Florida State League. The former first-rounder was young for his level and plays adequate defense at short, but you're not going to get to the big leagues with an ISO of less than 50 points unless you're a Gold Glove defender or can run like Billy Hamilton.


Right-hander Jose Mujica shows an above-average fastball now with heavy sink and a plus 82-85 mph changeup with plus control and the size (6-2, 200 pounds) to be a mid-rotation starter if he can develop a breaking ball. I've got him just over lefty Jose Castillo (No. 11), who has better present stuff, including an average or better curveball, but less feel or command.

Blue Jays' Top 10
Player, POS (Top 100 rank)
1. Aaron Sanchez, RHP (30)
2. Marcus Stroman, RHP (58)
3. Robert Osuna, RHP
4. Daniel Norris, LHP
5. Adonis, Cardona, RHP
6. Jairo Labourt, LHP
7. Alberto Tiraro, RHP
8. Franklin Barreto, SS
9. Dawel Lugo, SS
10. D.J. Davis, CF
Toronto Blue Jays
Org rank: 24

Farm system overview

The Jays gambled the farm last winter, and the result is that there's not a whole lot left on their full-season rosters -- just the three starters Aaron Sanchez, Marcus Stroman, and Daniel Norris, with all of the other top prospects in their system spending 2013 in short-season ball.

The failure to sign their first-round picks in 2011 or 2013 didn't help matters, regardless of whether their decisions not to sign those guys were correct -- the void is here either way. They did get a nice surprise from Canadian-born pitcher Tom Robson (No. 11 in the system), who was pitching 91 to 95 mph by season's end and generates a ton of ground balls, but needs work on his curve and changeup. Chase DeJong (No. 12) shows feel for three pitches and throws strikes, projecting as a possible fourth starter.

Four other top 100 prospects came from the Jays' system, but were traded away last winter: Noah Syndergaard, Travis d'Arnaud, Jake Marisnick, and Justin Nicolino. The bright spot here is the team's effort in Latin America, where former international scouting director Marco Paddy loaded up the system with shortstops and power arms before he left to take a similar position with the White Sox.

2014 impact

This should be Stroman's year to break into the majors, likely as a starter -- the Jays could use him -- but with the pen always an option to help keep his innings load down. Kevin Pillar (No. 13 in the system) should spend the year in Toronto as an extra outfielder, while Ryan Goins may stick as a utility infielder.

The fallen

Roberto Osuna, a top-100 prospect a year ago, had a rough 10 starts in low Class A Lansing before undergoing Tommy John surgery at the beginning of August and likely won't pitch again until instructional league this fall.


If Franklin Barreto stays at shortstop, which most scouts seem to think he will, he has a chance to be an impact guy with the bat. He's an average to slightly above-average defender but has a plus arm. At the plate, he shows a feel to hit and power to the opposite field, with a strong, compact body that doesn't prevent him from being a plus runner and an agile defender on the dirt.

Top 10 prospects (AL Central).
Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)

White Sox's Top 10
Player, POS (Top 100 rank)
1. Erik Johnson, RHP (59)
2. Matt Davidson, 3B (88)
3. Tim Anderson, SS (98)
4. Courtney Hawkins, OF
5. Micah Johnson, 2B
6. Marcus Semien, IF
7. Trayce Thompson, CF
8. Chris Beck, RHP
9. Andrew Mitchell, RHP
10. Jacob May, OF
Chicago White Sox
Org rank: 27

Farm system overview

Although its overall rank is low, the White Sox's system is in the best shape of its life -- or at least since I started compiling these rankings. They've taken a more open approach to the draft recently, mixing in more high-ceiling candidates early without eschewing probability, and finding some athletes on whom they could gamble after the first few rounds.

Courtney Hawkins, their first-rounder two years ago, was pushed too aggressively to high Class A and struggled to make contact, but at 19 he was just too young and raw for that level, and the tools that made him a top 100 prospect before 2013 -- the power, the arm, the speed -- are all still there. Repeating the Carolina League won't be the worst thing in the world for him, and he'll need to focus on using the whole field and being less pull-conscious.

Micah Johnson opened a lot of eyes in the Arizona Fall League with his speed, although he'll need a lot of work at second and may end up in center field. Tim Anderson was the team's first-round pick in 2013, and their third-rounder, Andrew Mitchell, was misused at TCU as a reliever, but projects as a starter with a possible three- or four-pitch mix. Their second-rounder, right-hander Tyler Danish, has a brutal arm action, but what comes out is mid-90s velocity and he could move quickly as a reliever. (I didn't, and still don't, like Chris Sale's arm action, but the White Sox have done pretty well with that one.)

The No. 11 prospect in the system is Scott Snodgress, a left-handed starter whose results in the rotation haven't been good enough to keep him there, but who has the potential three-pitch arsenal to be a reliever who's more than just a one-batter specialist.

2014 impact

Johnson will be one of the top rookies in the American League in 2014, with a rotation spot in hand and the body and delivery to make 30-plus starts at a league-average level. Matt Davidson appears to be in line for the everyday third-base job, a potential .250-260 hitter this year with 15-20 homers and plenty of doubles.

Marcus Semien could be the team's second baseman if they give him a shot to supplant Gordon Beckham, or he'd be an ideal utility infielder who can play all three skill positions. Daniel Webb (No. 12) should spend time in the major league pen this year. I haven't included Jose Abreu in any rankings due to his age and experience, but he is a true rookie and will likely put up big power numbers if he spends the full year in Chicago. That's a lot of youth for the White Sox, who were disinclined to give that much playing time to prospects during Kenny Williams' last few years as GM.

The fallen

Jared Mitchell was the team's first-round pick in 2009, but he's never played as well as he did that summer, missing 2010 due to injury and struggling to make contact at every level. His .167/.293/.257 line in Double- and Triple-A last year was a new low, and he's a candidate to be outrighted or released off the team's 40-man roster this year.


Chicago's 2013 third-round pick, outfielder Jacob May, is the grandson of longtime major leaguer Lee May Sr., and had a very strong pro debut last summer, finishing very strongly in high Class A Kannapolis. He's strong for his size and an above-average runner with a chance to stay in center, needing work on his pitch recognition and overall approach at the plate after coming out of Coastal Carolina.

Indians' Top 10
Player, POS (Top 100 rank)
1. Francisco Lindor, SS (6)
2. Clint Frazier, OF (45)
3. Dorssys Paulino, SS
4. Trevor Bauer, RHP
5. Cody Anderson, RHP
6. Jose Ramirez, 2B
7. Tyler Naquin, CF
8. Tony Wolters, C
9. Mitch Brown, RHP
10. Carlos Moncrief, OF
Cleveland Indians
Org rank: 17

Farm system overview

Francisco Lindor is a future superstar, anchoring a system that is somewhat thin after the first three names and wasn't helped by down years from a number of top guys. They also graduated Danny Salazar, who looks like he will be, at worst, a good mid-rotation starter and flashes the kind of stuff in his fastball and splitter that could make him an ace.

Dorssys Paulino, Trevor Bauer and Jose Ramirez all had disappointing years, although both infielders were very young for where they played and I'm still fairly bullish on their futures. Tony Wolters, a convert to catcher last year, is intriguing, as he has the makeup to be at least a high-quality backup, and given another 200 games or so back there could develop into a starter.

Cody Anderson was their biggest jumper last year, a late pick who barely pitched in college, but now has a 93-96 mph fastball with three off-speed pitches, and who has the size and frame to hold 200 innings a year after Cleveland builds up his workloads.

Beyond the top 10, they still have Ronny Rodriguez (No. 11), a shortstop with the tools to be in the top five in the system but who has shown no ability to make adjustments at the plate; Eric Gonzalez (No. 12), a convert to shortstop who has shown tremendous aptitude for the position; and a number of power arms who look like pen guys or back-end starters, including Kieran Lovegrove, Dylan Baker, and Dace Kime, with Kime most likely to pan out in the rotation.

2014 impact

I wouldn't rule out seeing Lindor in the majors this year, as he's pretty close to ready right now and has been unfazed by everything Cleveland has thrown at him so far. Bauer and Anderson will likely see some time in the major league rotation, although Bauer has to earn the team's trust after his dumpster fire 2013.

The fallen

Bauer was a top-30 prospect with Arizona before a trade to Cleveland last winter, but he couldn't throw strikes this past season, even in Triple-A, and his velocity varied more from start to start than it ever had before. For a guy who talks a lot about his delivery, he's been unable to find a consistent one that would allow him to command the fastball, and at year end was cutting himself off to try to protect his groin muscle and made everything flatten out.

The bottom line for Bauer is that he has to throw his fastball for strikes so he can get to the good off-speed stuff. Any delivery talk that doesn't work toward that end is just folderol.


Francisco Mejia, 17, was one of the best prospects in the rookie-level Arizona League last year, a catcher with a plus arm and the athleticism to be an everyday backstop while also showing above-average raw power, especially for someone so young.

Tigers' Top 10
Player, POS (Top 100 rank)
1. N. Castellanos, 3B (32)
2. Daniel Fields, CF
3. Robbie Ray, LHP
4. Jonathan Crawford, RHP
5. Jake Thompson, RHP
6. James McCann, C
7. Tyler Collins, OF
8. Cory Knebel, RHP
9. Endrys Briceno, RHP
10. Eugenio Suarez, SS
Detroit Tigers
Org rank: 28

Farm system overview

Nick Castellanos is going to be a very good big leaguer, but after him, there's at least an argument that they don't have a future-average prospect in the system -- a pessimistic argument, to be sure, but not a wildly unreasonable one.

The Tigers have used their system aggressively to bolster the big league club, mostly via trades, and have lost some first-round picks to sign free agents, making it harder for the amateur scouting staff to keep pace. Their first-rounder from 2013, Jonathan Crawford, projects as a top-end reliever if the Tigers choose to put him on that track, although he was a starter in college and I expect Detroit to at least give that a year or so first.

Daniel Fields has had a strange path in pro ball, signing for a higher-than-recommended signing bonus as a sixth-round pick in 2009, then going straight from high school to high Class A Lakeland at age 19, then spending two-and-a-half years there before graduating to Double-A. He's turned into an above-average center fielder and is still improving on both sides of the ball, and gives the Tigers their best shot at another above-average regular from their system.

Endrys Briceno is intriguing, a three-pitch guy who can sink the fastball and needs more than anything to fill out his slender frame. Not listed are a number of relief candidates, including Kevin Ziomek, Drew VerHagen, Casey Crosby (who couldn't stay healthy as a starter) and Jose Valdes, who's up to 100 mph with a hard slider and needs to learn to dial it down for better command.

2014 impact

Castellanos will be their everyday third baseman and a top five rookie in the league, maybe the best rookie under age 25 this year. Corey Knebel was their second pick in the 2013 draft, a pure reliever who might be a quick-to-the-majors-before-he-gets-hurt guy, someone who could bolster their pen in the second half of the season.

The fallen

No major prospects had off years for Detroit; the biggest disappointment, in relative terms, was probably 2012 third-rounder Austin Schotts, who had to be demoted from low Class A back to short-season ball, but only turned 20 in September and is too young to give up on already.


Fields has the best chance to jump into the top 100 next year of non-100 guys right now. For a deep sleeper, more for 2015, infielder Javier Betancourt won't turn 19 until May, but shows a good hit tool for his age, especially the ability to square up a lot of pitches that other hitters couldn't, and has shown promise at all three infield skill positions.

Royals' Top 10
Player, POS (Top 100 rank)
1. Kyle Zimmer, RHP (10)
2. Raul Mondesi, SS (22)
3. Yordano Ventura, RHP (50)
4. Miguel Almonte, RHP (81)
5. Bubba Starling, OF
6. Hunter Dozier, SS
7. Sean Manaea, LHP
8. Jorge Bonifacio, OF
9. Orlando Calixte, SS
10. Jason Adam, RHP
Kansas City Royals
Org rank: 7

Farm system overview

Two years after everyone who covers the minors was heaping praise on the Royals' system, it's still in pretty good shape, despite promotions, injuries and players who just haven't panned out.

Kyle Zimmer would have been my top overall pitching prospect had he not been shut down with shoulder soreness; he was fine in instructional league and should have no lingering effects for 2014, but I admit to being very wary of anything involving that joint. Hunter Dozier and Sean Manaea formed a strong one-two punch for the Royals' 2013 draft class, and a clever manipulation of their allotted draft budget for the year. Manaea had hip surgery right after signing, and if there's still 96 mph in that arm as there was in the summer of 2012, before the injury, he'll be in the overall top 25 next winter.

Jason Adam hasn't lived up to my initial expectations out of the 2010 draft, but had a three-month stretch last summer where he looked like he was turning the corner, and he'll pitch most of this year at 22 years old; I still think there's a 25 percent chance he'll make that leap and become at least a mid-rotation starter.

Beyond their top 10, the fun doesn't stop. Alexis Rivera (No. 11) may end up at first base, and he's a power before hit guy all the way, but it's potential impact power, and the hit tool isn't about his swing (short and consistent) but about timing and pitch recognition. Cody Reed (No. 12) is a big lefty with velocity up to 95, sitting 93, and the Royals have already worked to clean up his delivery. Catcher Zane Evans (No. 13) was a two-way guy at Georgia Tech and has a backup floor and average regular ceiling, with feel to hit but not great bat speed. Cheslor Cuthbert (No. 14) still has a great swing and will play all of 2014 at age 20, but at some point the production has to match the scouting report. Christian Binford (No.15) is a two-seamer/slider guy with good control and very strong ground ball rates, 64 percent as a 20-year-old starter in low Class A last year.

2014 impact

If healthy, Zimmer should be in their rotation this year; he could be their third-best starter by August. Yordano Ventura should also see big league time, but given his fly ball tendency and smaller frame, I'd break him in as a reliever first, with an eye toward having him start in 2015.

The fallen

Here's where the bad news is. Bubba Starling was miserable before LASIK surgery in late summer, and even after that the reports weren't great on the No. 5 overall pick in the 2011 draft; the common criticism is that his swing is too noisy and/or mechanical, but I think the bottom line is that he cuts through too many pitches in or near the zone, regardless of the cause.

John Lamb hasn't bounced back from Tommy John surgery, and he might be done as a serious prospect because of that. I mentioned Cuthbert above; he did hit a little while repeating high Class A, but was awful in Double-A (.215 average in 264 plate appearances), and will probably repeat that level for all of 2014. Injuries limited 2011 second-rounder Cam Gallagher to just 66 games, after injuries limited him to 36 games the year before, and catchers who get hurt this often are not great bets to stay healthy in the future.


Manaea, easily. He would have gone in the top five picks, maybe first overall, if the 2013 draft had been held on Labor Day of 2012, but the hip injury led to a poor spring, with reduced velocity and command. It's not an ideal delivery, but before the injury he was up to 96 mph consistently with a wipeout breaking ball, and even when I saw him in March of last year, it was clear that hitters didn't see the ball out of his hand at all. I'd also point to Adam and Rivera as players who could make big jumps this year, but their probabilities are lower than Manaea's.

Twins' Top 10
Player, POS (Top 100 rank)
1. Byron Buxton, CF (1)
2. Miguel Sano, 3B (glasses.gif
3. Eddie Rosario, 2B/CF (49)
4. Alex Meyer, RHP (62)
5. Kohl Stewart, RHP (76)
6. Jose Berrios, RHP
7. Max Kepler, OF
8. Josmil Pinto, C
9. Lewis Thorpe, RHP
10. Jorge Polanco, SS/2B
Minnesota Twins
Org rank: 2

Farm system overview

Yes indeed, it's a fun time for Minnesota's system. Lord Byron is going to be a superstar, an elite defender, an 80-grade runner, a hitter for average and good OBPs, and I'd bet a fan favorite, as well, given his energy and his humble personality, too.

Miguel Sano is the best power-hitting prospect in the minors, due in no small part to his ability to hit. And the Twins have pitching -- all you Twins fans who like to complain that the team never has any power arms in its system can shut your traps, because Alex Meyer is sinking it at 96-100 mph, Kohl Stewart hits 97 even with a thrower's delivery, Jose Berrios can sit in the mid-90s, and there's more beyond their top 10, like lefty Mason Melotakis (No. 12 in the system) and right-hander Fernando Romero (No. 14). This ain't a bunch of Kevin Sloweys finessing their way to the big leagues.

Other names in the next tier include shortstop Engelb Vielma (No. 11), shortstop/utilityman Danny Santana (No. 13), third baseman Travis Harrison (No. 15), right-hander Madison Boer (No. 16) and lefty Stephen Gonsalves (No. 17), the last two of whom are indeed more in that command/control mold.

2014 impact

Josmil Pinto is an offensive-minded catcher who's ready with the bat but not yet behind the dish, needing more work on smoothing his release and the finer points like game-calling; he can catch and frame the ball pretty well, and I like his swing and overall approach. Sano should be up by the end of the year, although Twins fans will see him in July at the Futures Game, perhaps along with Buxton and the German-born Max Kepler, who's taking a more elliptical path to the majors than expected.

The fallen

Right-hander Trevor May had a mediocre year, but dropped from the Twins' top 10 more because he was pushed out by better guys. Eddie Rosario's stock hasn't fallen, but it's worth mentioning that the dodo got himself suspended for 50 games after a second violation of the minor league drug prevention program -- stupid because he needs those at-bats and reps in the field. The Twins graduated three of their top five prospects from last year -- Kyle Gibson, Aaron Hicks and Oswaldo Arcia -- and still managed to land the No. 2 spot on my rankings. It's a great system.


Australian-born Lewis Thorpe might be the guy to break the underwhelming recent history of arms from Down Under, as he's a "Guy," or whatever the equivalent to that is in Sydney. Thorpe's fastball will touch the mid-90s, with an above-average curveball he needs to command better, an average change trending toward plus and a good delivery that gets him on top of the ball for downhill plane.

He's a mature kid for his age, turning 18 just before last Thanksgiving, and has a thick frame that should be good for mid-rotation workloads. He's someone to root for, as success for him in the majors would help grow the game in Australia in the future.

Top 10 prospects (AL West).
Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)

Astros' Top 10
Player, POS (Top 100 rank)
1. Carlos Correa, SS (4)
2. Mark Appel, RHP (11)
3. George Springer, CF (19)
4. Mike Foltynewicz, RHP (70)
5. J. Singleton, 1B (78)
6. D. DeShields Jr. (80)
7. V. Velazquez (82)
8. Lance McCullers Jr., RHP
9. Rio Ruiz, 3B
10. Michael Feliz, RHP
Houston Astros
Org rank: 1

Farm system overview

The best farm system in baseball, just edging out the MinnesotaTwins, has ceiling and depth, with three potential All-Stars up top and a slew of guys who grade out from above-average regulars down to quality role players well into the back of the team's top 20.

Carlos Correa, Mark Appel, and George Springer are all exceptional talents, with Springer in the top five overall if we're just grading out tools. The Astros had little pitching depth in the system when GM Jeff Luhnow took over, but he has quickly stocked up on arms to supplement Mike Foltynewicz and Vincent Velazquez, the two starter prospects who were already in the cupboard when the new front office started work.

Lance McCullers Jr. is still a prospect on the starter/reliever fence, but that floor, a closer who can hit 100 mph with sink, is fairly high. The Astros tweaked Rio Ruiz's front leg landing midyear, getting him to plant more firmly, and he hit .297/.354/.521 after the Midwest League's All-Star Break with just a 17 percent strikeout rate at age 19. Michael Feliz was originally signed by Oakland, but the deal was voided when he failed a drug test, and the Astros got him for less than half of the original bonus amount. He's a 6-foot-4, 220-pound monster, throwing up to 98 mph, with control over command, more feel for the change than for a breaking ball and has mid-rotation upside down the road.

Beyond their top 10, it's still exciting. Domingo Santana (No.11) would make every other org's top 10 as a huge, physical right fielder with big-time power and a plus arm, though he has a little too much swing and miss in his game. Teoscar Hernandez (No.12) has great bat speed and above-average power and speed potential, possibly moving from center to right field. Andrew Thurman (No.13), their second pick in 2013, has four pitches with command and feel. Asher Wojcieshowski (No.14) has been 91-94 with three average-ish pitches and could be a fourth/fifth starter or solid eighth-inning guy. And Nolan Fontana (No.15) drew 102 walks in hitter-friendly high-A Lancaster while playing average or fringe-average defense at short.

Houston also has a slew of power arms in short-season ball: Jandel Gustave is up to 101 mph but without a decent breaking ball right now. Lefty Reymin Guduan has hit 100 with a plus slider, although his delivery may have too much effort for him to start. Lefty Chris Lee was better, finally, in his third go-round in the rookie-level Appy League, hitting 95 mph and sitting 92 with a slider and curveball, throwing more strikes as the Astros have worked to sync up his delivery. And, because the Astros weren't loaded enough, they took ex-prospect Ravel Santana from the Yankees in the Triple-A phase of the Rule 5 draft (meaning they don't have to give him back); Santana has missed a ton of time with ankle and arm injuries, but still has enough tools to end up a big leaguer if he can stay on the field.

2014 impact

Springer and Jonathan Singleton should be up by mid-year at worst, with Springer ahead of Singleton developmentally but with less urgency at the position with Dexter Fowler on board. The Astros need pitching but seem unlikely to rush any elite prospects, so I expect Appel to arrive at his own pace, maybe for September roster expansion, with Wojcieshowski more likely to get the call early in the season if they need someone. Right-hander Nick Tropeano has had success as a starter through Triple-A and could come up in that role, but I think in the long run he's a reliever, as he's mostly fastball-changeup without an average third pitch.

The fallen

Nobody imploded last year. Singleton had the most disappointing year, missing 50 games after a positive test for marijuana in 2012, then not performing after he returned. Their 2012 third-round pick, Brady Rogers, had a rough first full year for Houston, but he was in Lancaster the whole time, and that's a brutal environment for a pitcher who's more about command than stuff.


Of all their non-top 100 guys, Feliz is the most likely to jump up into next year's top 50, but it would take a big advance in at least one of his off-speed pitches. The next most likely is Domingo Santana, as Oklahoma City will give us a better read on where his plate discipline lies than Corpus Christi did.

Angels' Top 10
Player, POS (Top 100 rank)
1. Kaleb Cowart, 3B
2. Ricardo Sanchez, LHP
3. Taylor Lindsey, 2B
4. Mark Sappington, RHP
5. Jose Rondon, SS
6. Hunter Green, LHP
7. C.J. Cron, 1B
8. Mike Morin, RHP
9. R.J. Alvarez, RHP
10. Alex Yarbrough
Los Angeles Angels
Org rank: 29

Farm system overview

It's a bad system, one of only two that didn't place a single player on the top 100, although there are a few glimmers of hope in some of the big three teenage prospects: Ricardo Sanchez, Jose Rondon, and Hunter Green.

Kaleb Cowart was on the top 100 last year, but he had a miserable 2013 at the plate, working through mechanical problems with his left-handed swing that he never got through. On the bright side, he still plays plus-plus defense at third with great arm strength. Taylor Lindsey is a natural hitter with a good swing, but he's a fringy defender at second, and he's barely using his lower half right now at the plate. C.J. Cron has now drawn 43 unintentional walks in 1,274 pro plate appearances and while he has 30-homer power, he's not going to get to it with his lack of plate discipline.

On the positive side, Rondon looks like he'll stay at shortstop, and has great hand-eye coordination at the plate, posting great numbers in rookie-level Orem last summer after breaking his hamate bone in spring training. Mark Sappington is probably a reliever, as his delivery isn't ideal for starting (wraps in back, upright at release), but he does have the size and stamina to do so if he can loosen up his delivery and throw more strikes. Mike Morin is a fastball/changeup guy with command, and the changeup, which he can cut to make it tail in either direction, is a swing-and-miss pitch for him. There's a slight upward trend here now that they've bottomed out.

2014 impact

Alvarez and Morin both should see major league time in the Angels' pen this year. Nick Maronde is still a rookie and may join them, but he has to throw more strikes, which he didn't do in the majors or in Double-A last year. Cam Bedrosian is a reliever now and should start in high-A or Double-A, which would give him an outside chance to see the majors later this summer.

The fallen

Cowart's 2013 was a huge disappointment, even considering his age and experience level. He, Cron and Maronde all took big hits to their status last year.


Sanchez was only in the upper 80s last spring as an amateur, but the Angels may have found a bargain with the Venezuelan left-hander, who's now 87-92 with feel for a curveball and changeup, as well as good aptitude on the mound. Both he and Green, the team's first overall pick (second round) in 2012, are high-upside teenage arms who have years of development ahead of them and have to stay healthy, but could be the first major starters the Angels have developed since Jered Weaver.

Athletics' Top 10
Player, POS (Top 100 rank)
1. Addison Russell, SS (3)
2. Billy McKinney, OF
3. Daniel Robertson, SS
4. Chris Kohler, LHP
5. Raul Alcantara, RHP
6. Bobby Wahl, RHP
7. Billy Burns, CF
8. Matt Olson, 1B
9. Dylan Covey, RHP
10. Max Muncy, 1B
Oakland Athletics
Org rank: 26

Farm system overview

The A's promoted or traded away a ton of talent over the past two years, with nine of their top 10 from 2012 either on the current A's big league roster or in another organization. That leaves just one top-100 prospect in the system, but if you're going to have just one, Russell is a good choice, a budding superstar who'll provide good defense at short, hit for average and get on base, with at least average power.

Billy McKinney, their first-rounder from 2013, has a great left-handed swing and good feel to hit, showing surprising instincts in center after signing. Before the draft, everyone conceded he'd end up in left field, but now that's at least in doubt. Raul Alcantara returns to the A's top 10 -- he was No. 8 on that 2012 list -- touching 95 last year with an above-average changeup and slurvy slider. But, most importantly, he throws strikes and misses far more bats. He'll reach Double-A this year at age 21.

Billy Burns came over from Washington in exchange for Jerry Blevins in December. He's an 80-grade runner, an above-average defender in center, and controls the zone well, but has no power and has to prove hard throwers won't just light him up and blow him out like a candle. Michael Ynoa is No.11, still showing the pretty delivery that earned him a record bonus many years ago, with good frame (6-foot-7), and a fastball up to 95 mph. But he's barely beginning to learn how to pitch, and since he's already on the 40-man roster the clock has started to tick.

2014 impact


The fallen

Miles Head hurt a wrist after one swing in the 2012 Arizona Fall League, showed up out of shape to camp in 2013, then had a sore shoulder and had to be shut down, hitting just .196/.264/.264 in 40 games in Double-A.


Bobby Wahl has had a history of minor injuries that pushed him out of the first round this past spring coming out of Ole Miss, with a broad consensus he'd end up in a relief role. The A's took him in the fifth round and will try him as a starter. He showed three above-average pitches in instructional league, and his command and control were much better there and in brief outings over the summer.

Mariners' Top 10
Player, POS (Top 100 rank)
1. Taijuan Walker, RHP (16)
2. D.J. Peterson, 3B/1B
3. Austin Wilson, OF
4. James Paxton, LHP
5. Tyler Pike, LHP
6. Victor Sanchez, RHP
7. Edwin Diaz, RHP
8. Luiz Gohara, LHP
9. Tyler Marlette, C
10. Gabriel Guerrero, OF
Seattle Mariners
Org rank: 21

Farm system overview

The Mariners graduated three big league regulars to the majors last year -- Mike Zunino, Brad Miller, and Nick Franklin -- plus Brandon Maurer and Carter Capps, all of whom will put a dent in any farm system's ranking.

They do still have two potential starters in Taijuan Walker and James Paxton, although the latter's command still comes and goes too often for me to consider him a top-100 prospect or more than a likely fourth starter. I liked their two picks on day one of the 2013 draft, with D.J. Peterson more of a performance guy and Austin Wilson the athlete you dream on but who hasn't posted the right kind of results yet; both also look like everyday guys down the road.

The four young arms I have next in their system are all candidates to make moves forward in 2014, assuming the hitter-friendly Cal League doesn't swallow Tyler Pike or Victor Sanchez alive. Luiz Gohara has the biggest upside but won't turn 18 until the end of July and probably spends the summer in short-season ball building up arm strength.

Gabriel Guerrero is Vlad's nephew, a long-levered guy who can run and throw, showing raw power in BP but not yet in games. He has a strong work ethic, but is probably two years away from entering discussions for the top 100. Tyler Marlette has an everyday upside, but is probably a quality backup, which is still a valuable asset as so many major league teams scramble to find two guys to split the 162 starts behind the plate each year. Not on the list: Chris Taylor (No.11), a workmanlike shortstop who will play in the big leagues as at least a good utility infielder; and right-hander Dominic Leone (No.12), their 16th-round pick in 2012, whose fastball command came on in 2013 and could propel him to the majors now that Capps has been traded.

2014 impact

Walker and Paxton probably make 50-odd starts between them this year, with Walker offering more chance of above-average performance if he can loosen up his delivery the way it used to be. Leone and Carson Smith, the latter a right-handed specialist due to a very low arm slot, should surface in the Mariners' pen this year.

The fallen

Danny Hultzen, third in the system and No. 66 overall going into 2013, suffered a major shoulder injury and probably won't pitch again until 2015. His future is very much in doubt until we see what's left of his stuff.


I rated Wilson as a first-round talent out of high school in 2010 and again out of Stanford in 2013. He's a superb athlete with a big frame, a right fielder in pro ball who can throw and run a little. He has excellent makeup that will serve him well as the Mariners try to get him away from the "Stanford swing."

Rangers' Top 10
Player, POS (Top 100 rank)
1. Jorge Alfaro, C (44)
2. Rougned Odor, 2B (64)
3. Alex Gonzalez, RHP
4. Lewis Brinson, CF
5. Joey Gallo, 3B
6. Chris Bostick, 2B
7. Michael Choice, OF
8. Nick Williams, OF
9. Nomar Mazara, OF
10. Luis Sardinas, SS
Texas Rangers
Org rank: 13

Farm system overview

The Rangers' system is good despite having onlytwo prospects who earned serious top-100 consideration. It's full of potential ceiling, with a lot of guys who could be All-Stars but who also have substantial chances to flame out in Double-A.

Jorge Alfaro needs to tighten up his plate discipline (that's fancy talk for "mix in a walk every now and then, big guy") and increase his focus on defense, but could be among the best catchers in the game with his 80 arm/80 power potential. Rougned Odor is at the opposite end of the spectrum, a tireless worker and competitor with a great feel to hit already at age 19. Alex "Chi-Chi" Gonzalez is a safe bet to be in the back of the rotation in a year or so, but the cutter is a possible out-pitch for him and he has a shot to be more of a solid No. 3.

Joey Gallo, Lewis Brinson, Nomar Mazara, Luis Sardinas, Travis Demeritte (No.11 in the system), Jairo Beras (No.14) and Ronald Guzman (No.15) are all high-ceiling guys who still have a ways to go with at least one major aspect of their games. Gallo and Brinson struck out at unfathomable rates in low-A, but they also both have plus-plus raw power, Gallo from strength and Brinson from quick wrists and bat speed. Gallo is more polished at the plate, but Brinson has the added value of his defense in center. Nick Williams made big strides last year, calming down at the plate, taking better at-bats, using the whole field instead of trying to jerk everything down the right field line, and it emerged that he's got pretty good bat-to-ball ability underneath all the showcase showmanship.

Others of note in the system include right-hander Luke Jackson (No.12), who has a big arm and shows three pitches but has a reliever's delivery and command; right-hander David Ledbetter (No.13), their third-rounder from 2013, 89-93 with a plus curveball but in need of a third pitch; Victor Payano (No.16), a 6-foot-6 lefty whose fastball is 90-94 mph with a good change and decent spin on the curveball, but who has to stay healthy; and right-hander Alec Asher, a junior college product who cleaned up his body and found some more fastball there, now 90-95 mph with a good 200-inning frame.

2014 impact

Michael Choice has the same issue as Gallo, swinging and missing at a lot of stuff in the zone that he should square up, which means he doesn't always get to his plus raw power. I doubt the Rangers want to platoon their big splashy free-agent signing, Shin-Soo Choo, but Choice would be a good caddy and can back up the other two spots as well.

The fallen

Cody Buckel was on the top 100 last year, No. 90 overall, and third in the Rangers' system. But he developed "the yips," also known as "the Thing" or "Steve Blass disease," the same ailment that ended Rick Ankiel's career as a pitcher, and at this point I wouldn't rank Buckel anywhere.

Guzman's bat speed has never measured up well for me, at least not compared to the other top bats in the system. But his situation was made worse by a broken hand he suffered when hit by a pitch in late July that cost him the last 30 or so games of the season. He's only 19, but as a first base-only prospect he has to hit and hit for power, and to get there, he has to play.


Payano is the non-top-10 guy with the best chance to jump into the global top 100 next year. Looking another year down the line, the Rangers, always active in the July 2 market for international free agents, signed shortstop Yeyson Yrizarri for $1.35 million last summer, and he impressed the club in instructional league with his speed, arm, and overall feel for the game at age 16.
post #19730 of 73441
Well, my prayers have been answered.
LA gets another jersey
post #19731 of 73441
It took me a while to figure out the difference of that road jersey laugh.gif
A T H L E T I C S | U C L A | L A K E R S | R A I D E R S

A T H L E T I C S | U C L A | L A K E R S | R A I D E R S

post #19732 of 73441
Come on man laugh.giflaugh.gif
I would have hoped for a royal blue one like the KC Royals have, but this will do
post #19733 of 73441

I have always been of the opinion that road jerseys need to say the city where the team is from and home jerseys need to say the team name.  Which is why I have such a huge problem with my Warriors jerseys saying both....but thats a topic for a different thread and time. 

post #19734 of 73441

New addition to the bobblehead collection smokin.gif

The Nats released their promo schedule today, a lot of bobblehead nights and a Jayson Werth garden gnome laugh.gif but nothing too exciting besides that.

Are any of your teams scheduling any good giveaways this year?
post #19735 of 73441
Hope there's a giveaway when I go see them play the rangers in May
post #19736 of 73441
Bryce Harper is absolutely YOKED. Dude looks like he's put on 20lbs since the season ended. He's got to be in that 240 range right now.
post #19737 of 73441
Thread Starter 
Top 10 prospects (NL Central).
Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)

Cubs' Top 10
Player, POS (Top 100 rank)
1. Javier Baez, SS (7)
2. Kris Bryant, 3B (15)
3. Jorge Soler, OF (26)
4. Albert Almora, CF (28)
5. C.J. Edwards, RHP (67)
6. A. Alcantara, 2B (71)
7. Pierce Johnson, RHP
8. Jaimer Candelario, 3B
9. corey Black, RHP
10. Arodys Vizcaino, RHP
Chicago Cubs
Org rank: 4

Farm system overview

The Cubs' collection of offensive prospects is extremely impressive, with three high-impact bats at the top of the system, followed by two guys who can contribute on both sides of the ball.

Javier Baez, Kris Bryant, and Jorge Soler all look like stars; Baez has the explosive bat speed to be a guy who hits for average and power, and he can play somewhere in the middle infield, even if the Cubs don't have room for him there. Soler has the biggest risk, although some of that is because he missed so much of 2013 after breaking his leg; I think everyone, the Cubs included, would feel more confident if he had played a full summer and continued to show gradual improvement.

They're still light on arms; C.J. Edwards and Pierce Johnson are the only pitchers in the system I'd project as more than fifth starters, and neither looks like a potential ace or strong No. 2. That said, they did load up on pitching in the 2013 draft, and lefty Rob Zastryzny (No. 11 in the system) could grow into a third or fourth starter role, while right-handers Scott Frazier (No. 13), Tyler Skulina (No. 14), and Trey Masek are all current starters who could go either way but are now more likely to head for the pen.

Corey Black is an interesting case, built like a reliever, aggressive like one as well, but he'll at least show four pitches, two of them plus, and I would at least let him start a little longer before conceding the point. Eloy Jimenez (No.12), the 17-year-old jewel of the July 2 international signing class from last year, is all fantasy at this point, a kid with a huge, projectable frame as well as the swing to eventually have 30-35 homer power.

2014 impact

Arismendy Alcantara probably starts the year in Triple-A, but I think he's an upgrade over Darwin Barney right now, an above-average defender at second who can actually hit. Baez should make his major league debut this summer, although the position is up in the air and depends on Alcantara's arrival and whether Starlin Castro gets his head on straight.

The fallen

Mike Olt's vision problems have put his career on hold, in practical terms; if you can't see, you can't hit or field, and until he and his doctors find a solution, he won't be able to produce on the field. Arodyz Vizcaino missed his second straight year due to arm problems, and Juan Carlos Paniagua fell apart once he got past visa problems and managed to take the mound, trying too hard to guide the ball for strikes instead of just airing it out.


Jimenez is more likely to show up on the 2016 top 100 than the 2015 one; for next year's list, we're more likely to see Jaimer Candelario, who has been on the fringes of my top 100 for two years now. He's a mediocre defender at third, but his bat has a chance to be special -- he has a fluid swing, stays inside the ball well, and has shown doubles power to both gaps already at age 19.

Reds' Top 10
Player, POS (Top 100 rank)
1. Robert Stephenson, RHP (29)
2. Billy Hamilton, CF (52)
3. Phil Ervin, OF
4. Jesser Winker, OF
5. Yorman Rodriguez, OF
6. Michael Lorenzen, RHP
7. Nick Travieso, RHP
8. Daniel Corcino, RHP
9. Chad Rogers, LHP
10. Jackson Stephens, RHP
Cincinnati Reds
Org rank: 16

Farm system overview

The Reds have drafted well the past few years, buttressing a system depleted by trades, promotions and fewer prospects coming from their international scouting arm. Robert Stephenson and Billy Hamilton both have chances to become impact players, Stephenson the more likely of the two as Hamilton is going to have to show he can hit Triple-A pitching after a rough first year at the level.

Phil Ervin and Jesse Winker look like solid everyday regulars in the outfield, Ervin more if he stays in center field (which I'd bet against right now), while Yorman Rodriguez, signed for $2.5 million way back in 2008, has the highest ceiling of any position player in the system right now, and made big strides in his plate discipline in 2013.

The rest of their top 10 includes starters who have to add or change something significant to remain in that role, led by former college outfielder/closer Michael Lorenzen, who has hit 99 mph in relief but whom the Reds are trying to convert to the rotation. Chad Rogers has the best chance to stay in the rotation, a possible workhorse back-end starter with three pitches, and he also survived a shark bite in 2010, which has nothing to do with baseball, but, whoa, shark attack.

Other players of note in the system include Ben Lively (No.11), a right-hander with a fringe-average fastball but tremendous deception that helps it play up the way Tony Cingrani's fastball has; Jon Moscot (No.12), a potential back-end starter who's 90-95 with a four-pitch mix but has nothing plus; and Amir Garrett (No.13), who really needs to stop wasting his time playing basketball because it's hurting his development as a left-handed reliever.

2014 impact

Hamilton is the Reds' Opening Day center fielder as the roster stands; he's ready defensively, and his legs can make an impact, but I'm not alone in worrying about his ability to fight off hard stuff in on his hands, which is how pitchers are going to attack him at first. I wouldn't be shocked to see Rogers make the Reds' pen early this season, as he finished in Triple-A and he's hit 92-95 mph in short stints.

The fallen

Daniel Corcino's year was a huge letdown, the latest Reds prospect to struggle in Triple-A, in this case because he was trying to pitch up in the zone at 92-94 mph and getting punished for it. He did throw better in 10 relief innings in winter ball, and it's possible he's better off as a power reliever rather than a starter who's too line-drive and homer-prone. Ismael Guillon shows flashes of mid-rotation potential, but you can't walk 95 in 121 innings (and that's after walking just six in his last four starts) and expect us not to notice it.


Jackson Stephens is a classic find from scouting director Chris Buckley, a high school quarterback from Alabama who's blessed with a great arm, sitting 94-98, but still learning the art of pitching, like changing speeds and working with his secondary stuff.

Brewers' Top 10
Player, POS (Top 100 rank)
1. Tyrone Taylor, CF
2. Devin Williams, RHP
3. Nick Delmonico, 3B/1B
4. Michael Reed, OF
5. John Hellweg, RHP
6. Jimmy Nelson, RHP
7. Mitch Haniger, OF
8. Orlando Arcia, SS
9. Victor Roache, OF
10. Hunter Morris, 1B
Milwaukee Brewers
Org rank: 30

Farm system overview

The majors' weakest farm system didn't place anyone on the global top 100, and didn't have anyone particularly close. Tyrone Taylor, Nick Delmonico, and Michael Reed are solid prospects who project as average regulars if everything clicks, but don't have high ceilings.

Taylor has the broadest base of skills, a former wide receiver whose approach has been much better than expected from a two-sport guy, and he projects to stay in center. Reed can't stay in center, so he'll have to develop more power to play every day. Delmonico also needs to stay healthy for a full season, as he has missed more than 100 games over the past two years.

Devin Williams has the highest upside in the system, with a loose, easy delivery and a fastball up to 95, but he needs work on his command and secondary pitches. John Hellweg and Jimmy Nelson are future relievers. Mitch Haniger looks more like a good fourth outfielder than a regular. Victor Roache had a miserable full-season debut, hitting .248/.322/.440 at age 21 in low-A with a 26 percent strikeout rate. Orlando Arcia did nothing with the bat in 2013, but he was one of the youngest position players in any full-season league, and had missed all of 2012 due to injury. He has good instincts in the field and his ability to square the ball up enough to put it in play is good for his age and lack of experience.

David Denson (No.11) is an all-or-nothing guy, a 6-foot-4, 245-pound first baseman with big raw power, signed for $100,000 in the 15th round, whose value is all in his bat and who'll have to work to maintain his conditioning. Other names of note are hard-throwing reliever David Goforth; righty Ariel Pena, who has starter stuff and reliever command; and righty Jorge Lopez, still projectable with a good curveball, whose 5.23 ERA in 2013 was skewed by an April outing in which he allowed 8 earned runs in 1/3 of an inning.

2014 impact

Hellweg and Nelson could pitch for the major league squad this year, more likely in the bullpen though perhaps as spot starters. Hunter Morris is one of a few internal options at first base but doesn't project to hit or get on base enough to be an average regular there.

The fallen

Taylor Jungmann and Jed Bradley, the Brewers' two first-round picks in 2011, both had awful seasons and neither is even a potential fifth starter in the majors right now. Bradley hurt his shoulder, ending his season, the second year in a row he has been shut down with arm woes, and his stuff has never been where it was before he was drafted. Jungmann stayed healthy but walked almost as many as he struck out and has been reduced to throwing almost only fastballs.

One of their two first-rounders from 2013, catcher Clint Coulter, had to be demoted to short-season ball. In fact, the last successful first-round pick for Milwaukee was Brett Lawrie in 2008.


Williams has the best chance to make a big leap in 2014. Pre-draft, I compared him to Taijuan Walker at the same age. Walker had a better curveball, but the two otherwise have similarly easy velocity and loose, fluid arms.

Pirates' Top 10
Player, POS (Top 100 rank)
1. Gregor Polanco, OF (13)
2. Tyler Glasnow, RHP (20)
3. Jameson Taillon, RHP (27)
4. Austin Meadows, CF (35)
5. Nick Kingham, RHP (73)
6. Alen Hanson, SS (74)
7. Josh Bell, OF (97)
8. Reese McGuire, C
9. Harold Ramirez, OF
10. Luis Heredia, RHP
Pittsburgh Pirates
Org rank: 3

Farm system overview

The system has just started to bear fruit at the major league level, but there's more coming, with a near-future superstar in the outfield in Gregory Polanco and perhaps another further down the line in Austin Meadows, and three pitchers who project as top-three starters in a major league rotation in Tyler Glasnow, Jameson Taillon, and Nick Kingham.

Beyond the guys who made the top 100, Reese McGuire has a very high floor as a premium defender behind the plate, with a tremendous arm and improving receiving skills. Luis Heredia is a tough one to get a feel for because he has pitched so little since signing and hasn't had much success, but he's still just 19 years old. The delivery and body aren't great, while the stuff frequently is. For comparison's sake, if he were just about to graduate from high school in Florida or California, he'd be a late first-rounder this June.

Others of note include Clayton Holmes (No.11 in the system), a big right-hander who has the stuff and the delivery to be a solid mid-rotation starter, but not the results because he doesn't pitch with the confidence or aggressiveness he should have; JaCoby Jones (No.12), a superb athlete who struggled with his swing the last two years at LSU but will play in the middle of the diamond; Jaff Decker (No.13), an on-base machine just acquired in trade from the Padres, whose main problem has been staying healthy; and Wyatt Mathisen (No.14), a catcher who missed much of last season with a partially torn labrum, but who should be back at full strength this March.

The Pirates will need to continue to produce impact players they can control for six years at sub-market prices, because of the major league team's relatively low revenue base, but this system is primed to do exactly that, with bats and pitchers coming, just a little light in the infield but strong everywhere else.

2014 impact

I expect Taillon to come up at some point in the first half of the season, perhaps once the Bucs feel enough time has passed to keep him from reaching super-two status after 2016, and Kingham isn't that far behind -- he might be closer in terms of feel and command. Decker will have a chance to win the right-field job and would be a good platoon right fielder with his OBP skills and moderate power.

The fallen

The closest you can come to a disappointment among major prospects in this system would be outfielder Barrett Barnes, their supplemental first-round pick in 2012. Ranked seventh in their system last year, Barnes hit just .268/.338/.399 in low-A as a 21-year-old major-college product, in a season limited to 46 games by injuries. He would have been bumped from their top 10 by other prospects even with a full season of better performance, though.


Born in Colombia, Harold Ramirez played the whole summer at age 18, hitting .285/.354/.409 in the New York-Penn League against a lot of older pitchers, showing tremendous feel for the barrel and solid plate discipline for his age and inexperience. He's a slightly above-average runner and there's a good chance he moves out of center, but he looks like a pure hitter who'll at least hit for high averages with a ton of extra-base hits, which would still profile in an outfield corner.

Cardinals' Top 10
Player, POS (Top 100 rank)
1. Oscar Taveras, OF (5)
2. Stephen Piscotty, OF (57)
3. Kolten Wong, 2B (91)
4. Rob Kaminsky, LHP (100)
5. Tim Cooney, LHP
6. Marco Gonzales, LHP
7. Carson Kelly, C/3B
8. Alex Reyes, RHP
9. James Ramsey, OF
10. Chris Rivera, SS/2B
St. Louis Cardinals
Org rank: 12

Farm system overview

The Cardinals continue to build while contending at the major league level, with one of the game's best systems even after promoting top prospects such as Shelby Miller, Trevor Rosenthal and Carlos Martinez, and even surprising farm system products such as Allen Craig and Matt Carpenter.

Oscar Taveras is the one likely star in the system at this point, held back by an ankle injury that limited him to 46 games in Triple-A last year. Stephen Piscotty and Kolten Wong are solid everyday player prospects, while Carson Kelly tried catching in instructional league and, by all accounts, took to it extremely well, not least because he wanted to do it. James Ramsey may top out as a quality platoon outfielder, but did show more pop in the Arizona Fall League than I'd previously seen from him.

The greatest strength here is the depth of the system -- the Cardinals have continued to restock the major league club with cheap talent that is productive right out of the gate, and I see that continuing both on the pitching side and with their bench, including part-time/platoon candidates. Tim Cooney will pitch in the majors this year, a strike-throwing lefty starter with three average to slightly above-average pitches, including a fastball that will peak at 93-94. Marco Gonzalez isn't far behind, with a fringy fastball but out-pitch changeup and above-average to plus curveball, and no real projection. He's very athletic but isn't going to get much stronger or add velocity.

Arms beyond their top 10 include Sam Tuivailala (No.11 in the system), a converted infielder who is a legit 98-99 in relief and struck out nearly a third of the guys he faced last year; Cory Jones (No.14), a live-armed starter with control over command but a long history of injury; and Seth Blair (No.15), a two-pitch right-hander who lacks the command to start but could move quickly if the Cards put him in the pen.

Other bats of note include center fielder Charlie Tilson (No.12), who missed all of 2012 due to injury but had a solid return year with a good approach but needs to show more pop; left fielder Randal Grichuk (No.13), acquired in the Peter Bourjos/David Freese trade, with plus pull power and a deadly fear of breaking pitches; and outfielder Tommy Pham, a very toolsy, aggressive 25-year-old who has reached Triple-A but can't stay healthy for a full season.

2014 impact

Wong is the everyday second baseman and could be a league-average player this year. Taveras should be up at some point to take over right field, but probably has to show that his ankle is 100 percent and to perform well at Triple-A before that will happen. Cooney and Tyler Lyons are both potential call-ups when the Cards need a spot starter.

The fallen

Tyrell Jenkins was in their top 10 the past two years but shoulder problems have limited him to 200 pro innings in three-and-a-half seasons since signing, with surgery to repair the latissimus muscle in his right shoulder ending his 2013 season and possibly keeping him out into the start of 2014.


Alex Reyes, 19, was born in New Jersey but signed as an international free agent in the Dominican Republic, avoiding the draft entirely due to his Dominican ancestry. His stuff is electric, in the Trevor Rosenthal/Carlos Martinez mold, with a fastball that can sit in the mid-90s and a hammer breaking ball. Like many teenage arms, he needs to develop a changeup and his command is still below-average, so right now it's a reliever profile but with plenty of time for him to make himself a starter if he puts in the work.

Top 10 prospects (NL East).
Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)

Braves' Top 10
Player, POS (Top 100 rank)
1. Lucas Sims, RHP (40)
2. C. Bethancourt, C (90)
3. Jose Peraza, SS (99)
4. Mauricio Cabrera, RHP
5. Wes Parsons, RHP
6. Jason Hursh, RHP
7. Victor Caratini, C/3B
8. J.R. Graham, RHP
9. Tommy La Stella, 2B
10. Ian Thomas, LHP

Atlanta Braves
Org rank: 22

Farm system overview

Atlanta's system remains a real weakness, mostly because the club has used so much of what was on the farm a few years ago to bolster the major league roster (which, as a result, is very young as well as talented), and in part because recent drafts have been less productive.

Lucas Sims, Atlanta's 2012 first-rounder, isn't in that category, as his stuff ticked up across the board in a huge debut season that jumped him into the overall top 50. The Braves' 2013 draft was less promising, as they took likely reliever Jason Hursh in the first round, but second-rounder Victor Caratini could make a big jump if the team's effort to convert him to catching pays off. Two of the Braves' top 10 picks were signed as undrafted (passed over) free agents, Wes Parsons and Ian Thomas, and their Latin program is responsible for three of their top four guys.

2014 impact

Christian Bethancourt's glove and arm are more than ready for the majors; it's about his approach at the plate now, and just tightening up the finer points of his defense. Tommy La Stella could see a lot of time at second base; he's a fringe regular but may be a better option than Dan Uggla at this point.

The fallen

J.R. Graham, a top-100 prospect a year ago, blew out his shoulder and made just eight starts on the year. He was already a risk to have to go to the pen due to his lack of size -- he's listed at 5-foot-10 -- and that just became much more likely, assuming his stuff comes most of the way back after the decision to rehab his injury rather than undergo major surgery.


Parsons is a projectable right-hander, 6-foot-5, 190 pounds, with good sink on an average fastball, an above-average slider and plus control, with three walks in his past 44 innings this year in low-A.

Marlins' Top 10
Player, POS (Top 100 rank)
1. Andrew Heaney, LHP (34)
2. Colin Moran, 3B (55)
3. Jake Marisnick, CF (84)
4. Justin Nicolino, LHP (93)
5. Trevor Williams, RHP
6. Anthony DeScalfani,RHP
7. Brian Flynn, LHP
8. Jose Urena, RHP
9. J.T. Realmuto, C
10. Avery Romero, 2B
Miami Marlins
Org rank: 19

Farm system overview

It was something of a flat year within the Marlins' system, as no one but Andrew Heaney took a big step forward, but several guys made modest progress, while the team added three pretty strong talents in the draft in Colin Moran, Trevor Williams and reliever Colby Suggs, who could move very quickly through the system now that the groin strain that wrecked his spring at Arkansas is fully behind him.

The system isn't deep at all, although some of that is the result of the Marlins' aggressiveness in bringing young players with ability to the majors as soon as they might be ready, which led to five of Miami's top 10 prospects from last year losing their eligibility, including Christian Yelich and Jose Fernandez.

2014 impact

Jake Marisnick will lose eligibility early this season, and Brian Flynn would be my pick right now for the Marlins' fifth starter spot over guys like Tom Koehler and Brad Hand. I wouldn't be shocked to see Anthony Desclafani surface in the second half; he has the velocity and control to start, but isn't very physical and may not have the stamina for 190-200 innings a year. He'd be very effective out of the pen if that's his future role.

The fallen

Austin Brice was one of two sleepers I named last year, along with Jose Urena, but Brice's velocity went backward this year and he walked nearly a man an inning; he's been passed by several better arms in the meantime. Kolby Copeland, Miami's third-round pick a year ago, refused to take a drug test and is now effectively out of baseball, although he's still under the Marlins' control if he wants to return.


Jarlin Garcia is a strike-throwing right-hander, 6-foot-2, 170 pounds, with a three-pitch mix already and some room to add velocity. He's No. 11 in the system, just ahead of Domingo German, another right-hander who doesn't have the third pitch but has an above-average curveball and good angle on his fastball.

Mets' Top 10
Player, POS (Top 100 rank)
1. N. Syndergaard, RHP (24)
2. Travis d'Arnaud, C (36)
3. Dominic Smith, 1B (37)
4. Rafael Montero, RHP (60)
5. Brandon Nimmo, OF (92)
6. Kevin Plawecki, C
7. Dilson Herrera, 2B
8. Wilmer Flores, IF
9. Cesar Puello, OF
10. Amed Rosario, SS
New York Mets
Org rank: 6

Farm system overview

This system has come a very long way in a short amount of time, thanks to solid drafts under scouting director Tommy Tanous and his predecessor Chad MacDonald, and to several very productive trades that brought in three of the Mets' top seven prospects.

Top prospect Noah Syndergaard saw his breaking ball improve from below-average last year to solid-average or better by summer's end; Travis d'Arnaud took time off from the disabled list to make his major league debut; Cesar Puello finally put some production behind his tools before serving a suspension for his involvement in Biogenesis.

The Mets' next few prospects after this top 10 -- Gavin Cecchini (No. 11), Gabriel Ynoa (No. 12), Jacob deGrom (No. 13), Michael Fulmer (No. 14) and Domingo Tapia (No. 15), to give you an idea -- are all pretty tightly bunched together, with a lot of back-end starters and potential fringe-to-average regulars in the group.

2014 impact

Both Rafael Montero and Syndergaard will likely see significant time in the majors, with Montero getting the call first because he's further along, and managing his service time is less important than managing Syndergaard's. Wilmer Flores could stick as a backup at third, second and even left field or first base, if the Mets don't mind him getting somewhat irregular at-bats. Puello is a dark horse to surface later in the year, especially if Curtis Granderson or Chris Young gets hurt (again).

The fallen

Nobody really crashed and burned this year in the Mets' system; the worst drop might be Cecchini, their first-rounder in 2012 and No. 5 prospect last year, now No. 11 and projected by many scouts as a fringe regular or utility guy because his bat looked light in Brooklyn last year.


I could pick any of a number of those control-fiend arms, but shortstop Amed Rosario is the most exciting prospect of the Mets' second tier (after their top 10 guys). He is a tool shed at shortstop, with a 70-grade arm and 60 raw power that's going to become more in time, and he's already showing a good feel for the zone at his age, improving his recognition of breaking stuff last summer and also showing good power out to right-center.

A native of the Dominican Republic, Rosario signed for $1.75 million in 2012 and skipped the Dominican Summer League and Gulf Coast League entirely, instead playing as the Appalachian League's youngest position player. He's a ways off, maybe more of a top-50 candidate for 2016, but is the system's most exciting prospect to dream on.

Phillies' Top 10
Player, POS (Top 100 rank)
1. J.P. Crawford, SS (46)
2. Maikel Franco, 3B/1B (63)
3. Jesse Biddle, LHP (77)
4. Kelly Dugan, RF
5. Severino Gonzalez, RHP
6. Cord Sandberg, OF
7. Roman Quinn, SS
8. Andrew Knapp, C
9. Carlos Tocci, CF
10. Deivi Grullon, C
Philadelphia Phillies
Org rank: 14

Farm system overview

The Phillies always go for ceiling in the draft and in international scouting, and there's a lot of potential impact here, especially at the lower levels, led by their first-round pick J.P. Crawford, a true shortstop with All-Star upside due to his potential with the bat.

Severino Gonzalez is their best right-handed arm, not a guy who'll ever challenge for the top 50 or 75 spots on the Top 100, but a command guy with two solid-average pitches now in a fastball and cutter and a chance for four average offerings with more development time. Kelly Dugan has a chance to be a solid-average regular if he can tighten up his plate discipline, which fell apart after a midseason promotion to Double-A.

Not listed in the top 10: Aaron Altherr (No. 11), a 6-foot-5 outfielder who's always been power-before-hit but showed a better approach this year and more willingness to go the other way; and Jake Sweaney (No. 12), a two-sport guy in high school who's raw but has the athleticism and arm strength to be an impact bat at catcher.

It's been a bit of a rough offseason for the Phillies' farm, though, as Andrew Knapp needed Tommy John surgery and could miss part of 2014, while Roman Quinn will likely be out until June or July after rupturing his Achilles tendon while working out.

2014 impact

Jesse Biddle probably makes his major league debut this summer, boosting the back of the rotation. Ethan Martin is a reliever all the way for me, and should spend most of 2014 on the big league roster. Kenny Giles, who can sit 98-99 in short stints, could surface this year if he can stay healthy.

The fallen

Adam Morgan was the Phillies' No. 1 prospect last year, No. 92 overall, but his shoulder blew up and he's had surgery to try to repair the damage. Shane Watson, who missed their top 10 last year but was one of their highest draft picks in 2012, also recently had shoulder surgery; both pitchers will miss most or all of 2014. Catcher Tommy Joseph was No. 5 in their system last year, but a severe concussion (as if there were such a thing as a "mild" brain trauma) has his future as a catcher in doubt.


Deivi Grullon has an 80-grade arm behind the plate and has a chance to be an elite defender all around, developing very quickly on the side of the ball, but has a ways to go with the bat, right now showing more power than feel to hit. His floor looks very high due to his arm and glove and his aptitude for learning the more cerebral parts of catching.

Nationals' Top 10
Player, POS (Top 100 rank)
1. Lucas Giolito, RHP (21)
2. A.J. Cole, RHP (65)
3. Brian Goodwin, CF (83)
4. Nate Karns, RHP
5. Sammy Solis, LHP
6. Pedro Severino, C
7. Jefry Rodriguez, RHP
8. Jake Johansen, RHP
9. Michael Taylor, CF
10. Steven Souza, OF
Washington Nationals
Org rank: 18

Farm system overview

Similar to last year's top 10, the Nationals' current list boasts a strong front five with a bit of a drop-off to the rest of the system.

Lucas Giolito has ace upside once he builds up the durability to handle a full workload; he's just a few months back from Tommy John surgery and rehab and is all potential right now. A.J. Cole re-established himself as a starting pitching candidate, bouncing back from a poor year in exile with the A's. Both Nate Karns and Sammy Solis could be someone's starters, although there's no room at the inn in Washington right now.

Jefry Rodriguez is very intriguing as a converted shortstop who's up to 98 with a power curveball, but as you might expect has even further to go than your typical rookie-ball pitcher because he's new to the craft. The Nationals' first pick in 2013, Jake Johansen, was a little underwhelming as their top selection (they didn't have a first-round pick), a power arm who almost certainly projects as a reliever down the line.

Beyond the top 10, they did get solid pro debuts from right-hander Austin Voth (No. 11), who was 90-94 with a solid-average slider, and third baseman Drew Ward (No. 12), a very physical kid who may end up at first base but has the potential for impact power.

2014 impact

Karns had a cup of coffee last year and could help the Nats again this year as a spot starter or in a long relief role, which might be ideal for him as he needs work on turning a lineup over more than anything else. Outfielder Eury Perez would be a good bench candidate for someone, even if it's not here.

The fallen

I think the Matt Purke ship has probably sailed at this point; the overhyped, overpaid lefty threw just 90 innings this year, all in Class A, and looked like a future reliever between his low slot and average-ish velocity. He's now about 14 months removed from shoulder surgery, much of the blame for which lies not with him, but with the TCU coaching staff that worked him hard his freshman year and continued to roll him out there his sophomore year when he was obviously ailing.


Pedro Severino was an All-Star in the Sally League this year, primarily because of his defense -- he's a superb pitch-framer with a 70 or 80 arm, with the rare combination of strength and flexibility that's ideal for the position. At the plate, he's very balanced with a clean, efficient swing; there's probably not a lot of future power there, but he should make plenty of contact and hit for average. The defense is the calling card here, enough to get him to the big leagues at a young age while the bat develops.

Top 10 prospects (NL West).
Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)


Diamondbacks' Top 10
Player, POS (Top 100 rank)
1. Archie Bradley, RHP (9)
2. Braden Shipley, RHP (25)
3. Chris Owings, SS (72)
4. Stryker Trahan, C
5. Aaron Blair, RHP
6. Brandon Drury, 3B/1B
7. Jake Lamb, 3B
8. Jose Martinez, RHP
9. Felipe Perez, RHP
10. Sergio Alcantara, SS
Arizona Diamondbacks
Org rank: 15

Farm system overview

Of the D-backs' top 10 prospects two years ago, three are now on the major league roster, led by Pat Corbin, while three others have been dispatched in trades over the past year-plus. A couple of solid drafts the past two years have helped restock the system, but at this point, the scouting staff can't add talent as quickly as Kevin Towers is dealing it away.

Fortunately, they've got a future ace at the top of the system in Archie Bradley, and I love Braden Shipley's chances to become a solid No. 2 behind him thanks to his athleticism and relative inexperience on the mound. Stryker Trahan has come a long way defensively since signing, especially in throwing out runners, and had a solid second pro season despite losing his mother in April after a long battle with cancer.

Brandon Drury was the big surprise in the system this year; widely seen (including by me) as a throw-in to the Justin Upton trade, he led the low Class A Midwest League in doubles with 11 more than anyone else, finished seventh in slugging, and showed a cerebral approach at the plate that improved as the year went on. He may be playable at third base, but is still a work in progress there. Jake Lamb had the bigger rate stats and is more likely to stay at third, but missed two months last year with a sprained right wrist. Sergio Alcantara was just 16 in rookie ball last summer, showing great plate discipline and good instincts at short with a plus arm, a possible everyday shortstop if he can get a good bit stronger over the next couple of years.

Just missing their top 10: shortstop Jose Munoz (No. 11 in the system), likely to move to third base with a good feel to hit and potential average power; lefty Daniel Gibson (No. 12), 90-94 mph on his fastball with two fringy-to-average breaking balls, starting now after he relieved at the University of Florida; outfielder Justin Williams (No. 13), who has huge raw power but is pretty crude at the plate and in the field; and right-hander Jimmy Sherfy (No. 14), a former college closer with plus stuff and a bad delivery, someone the Snakes should move quickly to capitalize on his arm while they can.

2014 impact

Chris Owings could unseat Didi Gregorius as the everyday shortstop in Phoenix, while Bradley should make his debut at some point this summer. Right-hander Mike Stites came over in the Ian Kennedy trade. He has been 96-98 and could challenge for a bullpen role this spring, as could right-hander Jake Barrett, whose fastball/slider combo is filthy when he's healthy, which isn't all that often.

The fallen

No one. If you show the slightest sign of weakness, Towers will not hesitate to put you on the trade market.


Everyone who sees right-hander Jose Martinez raves about him. He has a somewhat slight build for a starter, similar to St. Louis right-hander Carlos Martinez, but his fastball is 94-96 mph with a curveball that runs from average to plus. His stuff is ahead of his control, though, as he walked 25 in 38 innings last summer for short-season Yakima.

Rockies' Top 10
Player, POS (Top 100 rank)
1. Jonathan Gray, RHP (12)
2. Eddie Butler, RHP (17)
3. David Dahl, OF (47)
4. Rosell Herrera, SS (54)
5. Raimel Tapia, OF
6. Tom Muprhy, C
7. Trevor Story, SS
8. Kyle Parker, 1B
9. Ryan McMahon, 3B
10. Tyler Matzek, LHP
Colorado Rockies
Org rank: 8

Farm system overview

The Rockies' system looks a whole lot better than it has ever looked with these two potential aces at the top of the list: Jonathan Gray, the third overall pick in last year's draft, and Eddie Butler, who took a big step forward after he was their supplemental first-round pick in 2012. Both guys made a lot of progress with their changeups last summer, and neither is that far away from contributing in Coors Field.

David Dahl missed almost all of last year due to injury, but looked fine in instructs and should be ready to go in March. I still like the tools and feel for hitting, given his age, and think he'll develop into an above-average regular. Rosell Herrera repeated the low-A Sally League in a great hitter's park, so it would help to see him carry it over to high-A this year. He's athletic and can play a little out of control, but the tools are exciting. Tom Murphy has improved his receiving to solid-average now, along with a 60 arm, and has above-average raw power. But he was way too old for the Sally League last year and I hope he'll start 2014 in Double-A now that he'll be 23 years old. Tyler Matzek has never lived up to expectations that made him the 11th overall pick in 2009, but at least he has the fastball/breaking-ball combination to be an effective left-handed reliever.

The Rockies have a lot of depth in arms beyond their top 10 names, led by Antonio Senzatela, a Venezuelan right-hander who just turned 19 last week. The 11th-best prospect in the system, he has been up to 95 and will flash a plus curveball and a plus changeup, needing consistency with the secondary stuff and to work on command and on how to use his stuff more effectively.

Lefty Tyler Anderson (No. 12) should still be a No. 4 or No. 5 starter, but his past two years have been wrecked by back and elbow problems. I still like right-hander Ryan Warner (No. 13) as a long-term prospect, still projectable at 6-foot-7 with present command and plane, needing now to grow into his frame. They also have a slew of relief candidates, such as Scott Oberg, up to 95 with a swing-and-miss curveball; Raul Fernandez, who reaches the upper 90s and punched out 36 percent of the guys he faced in Asheville last year, but needs to stay healthy; and lefty Sam Moll, their third-round pick last year, a starter now but I think a dominant left-handed reliever who'll show a 60-grade fastball and plus slider with an average changeup in short relief.

2014 impact

The Rockies may not wish to rush Gray or Butler, but I don't think either guy is that far off, with Butler closer in experience and also in stuff. Rule 5 draft selection Tommy Kahnle might stick as a 12th man in their pen.

The fallen

Tim Wheeler's 33-homer season in Double-A Tulsa in 2011 seemed like an anomaly at the time, and since reaching Triple-A Colorado Springs he has been both hurt and unproductive, with seven homers in more than 850 plate appearances there across two seasons. Matzek hasn't been able to command his fastball enough to start, and he actually walked more right-handers (63) than he struck out (60) last year, which is kind of a problem.


Outfielder Raimel Tapia is a gifted young hitter, boasting phenomenal hand-eye coordination, confidence at the plate for someone so young, and an ability to adjust to changing speeds. At 6-2, he's wiry and a little projectable still, playing center now but potentially ending up a corner where his bat would still play.

The Rockies don't have a complex-league team -- hello, Mr. Monfort, it's a great investment for a tiny amount of money -- so Tapia had to jump from the Dominican Summer League to the advanced rookie-level Pioneer League, and all he did was finish second in the circuit in total bases and eighth in OPS. He could put up some big numbers in Asheville, which is a great hitters' park, if the Rockies push him there this spring.

Dodgers' Top 10
Player, POS (Top 100 rank)
1. Julio Urias, LHP (14)
2. Corey Seager, 3B (18)
3. Joc Pederson, OF (41)
4. Zach Lee, RHP (75)
5. Chris Anderson, RHP (96)
6. Jesmuel Valentin, SS
7. Tom Windle, LHP
8. Ross Stripling, RHP
9. Alexander Guerrero, 2B
10. Kyle Farmer, C
Los Angeles Dodgers
Org rank: 11

Farm system overview

This is the best front five the Dodgers have had since the Matt Kemp/Andre Ethier/Russell Martin era, led by a pair of teenagers, Julio Urias and Corey Seager. The Dodgers' drafts, other than the cash-strapped 2011 year, have been successful at getting talent into the system, with Corey Seager, Zach Lee, and Chris Anderson all first-rounders, Jesmuel Valentin in the sandwich round, and Tom Windle in the second, while Joc Pederson was a big bonus signing in the 11th round.

Valentin is a premium defender whose bat is still an open question. Windle looked better after signing than he had in the spring at Minnesota, picking up strength as the weather warmed up, eventually hitting 95 mph in instructional league with a plus slider at 84 mph -- way above what I saw from him back in March.

Alexander Guerrero may hit, but he's got a stiff body and reports on his defense from winter ball were poor. Kyle Farmer, a shortstop at the University of Georgia, converted to catching after signing and picked it up quickly, with good energy and plenty of arm.

Also of note: Lefty Chris Reed (No. 11), a clear reliever but ready to pitch in the majors whenever he's needed; Scott Barlow (No. 12) and Zach Bird (No. 13), discussed below as sleepers; and converted infielder Pedro Baez (No. 15), now throwing hard on the mound but still working on the art of pitching as a reliever in Double-A. Right fielder Joey Curletta (No. 14) hit well in rookie-level Ogden at age 19; he's got a thick, strong build and is pretty short to the ball, with plus power in BP but a more contact-oriented approach during games.

2014 impact

There's hardly any room at the inn in Los Angeles for rookies. Guerrero might be the second baseman if the Dodgers can live with his below-average glove, and some of their relief prospects, especially Chris Withrow and Reed, will log major league innings this year.

The fallen

For all the hype James Baldwin Jr. had due to his plus speed and his bloodlines, he hasn't performed: Repeating low-A at age 21, he hit .238/.323/.388 and struck out in 36 percent of his at-bats.


Last year's sleeper, Bird, struggled with command and control in low-A, but was a little better after a demotion to the Pioneer League. He still has a great arm and a chance for three average or better pitches, but his youth (he turned 19 in July) and inexperience (he's from a high school in rural Mississippi) showed. Also, keep an eye on Barlow, back this year after missing 2012 due to Tommy John surgery, still waiting for the last of his velocity to return -- if it does at all.

Padres' Top 10
Player, POS (Top 100 rank)
1. Austin Hedges, C (33)
2. Matt Wisler, RHP (39)
3. Max Fried, LHP (48)
4. Hunter Renfroe, RF
5. Casey Kelly, RHP
6. Dustin Peterson, SS
7. Joe Ross, RHP
8. Zach Eflin, RHP
9. Andy Lockett, RHP
10. Rymer Liriano, RF
San Diego Padres
Org rank: 9

Farm system overview

The Padres' system remains deep and ready to supply the major league club with cheap starting pitching and the occasional bat, led by Austin Hedges, one of the best defensive catchers in baseball. He's more power-before-hit at this point, but with a good idea at the plate and high contact rates that give hope he'll keep his OBP respectable while saving a zillion runs with his glove and arm.

Casey Kelly and Rymer Liriano both missed the year due to Tommy John surgery. It was worse for Liriano, who desperately needed those at-bats to continue to work on recognizing off-speed stuff. Right-handers Joe Ross, Zach Eflin and Walker Weickel (No. 13) all flash plus stuff but need to work on command and turning lineups over three times. Eflin is the most advanced on the mound, sinking the fastball and going to a plus changeup for swings and misses, throwing a slider now that projects as average.

Shortstop Jace Peterson (No. 11) has the speed and actions to play there or at second, and he has performed well over the past two years. But he has been old for his leagues both times, staying in high-A all of 2013 even though there was no one blocking him in Double-A.

Right-hander Jesse Hahn (No. 12) just came over in a trade with Tampa Bay that also netted Alex Torres. he shows top-of-the-rotation stuff but has no history at all of staying healthy in that role, and it's more likely he's a premium reliever if his arm holds up. Josh Van Meter (No. 14) projects as an average defender at short. He can hit a little but will have to show more pop as he moves up the ladder.

2014 impact

Matt Wisler is close to being ready for the majors, and by midyear will likely be one of the three or four best starters in the organization. The Padres' current rotation leads off with three injury-prone guys in Andrew Cashner, Josh Johnson and Tyson Ross, so there will be opportunities for Wisler and for Kelly when he returns to action.

The fallen

Both Kelly and Liriano fell off the top 100 due to elbow surgery, and neither had performed up to expectations (or the level of their physical tools) prior to their injuries.


Andy Lockett missed all of 2013 (outside of three short relief outings in the complex league) with a blister issue that just wouldn't clear up; when that's not an issue, he'll run his fastball up to 94 with sink and shows a plus change. His arm works well and his slider was better than ever in instructs last year, although that won't really count until he can throw it against live hitters.

Giants' Top 10
Player, POS (Top 100 rank)
1. Kyle Crick, RHP (69)
2. Andrew Susac, C
3. Edwin Escobar, LHP
4. Clayton Blackburn, RHP
5. Adalberto Mejia, RHP
6. Christian Arroyo, SS
7. Joan Gregorio, RHP
8. Mac Williamson, RF
9. Ty Blach, LHP
10. Gary Brown, CF
San Francisco Giants
Org rank: 25

Farm system overview

The Giants have plundered their own system for trades and for a few big league jobs during their run of contention over the past five years, so the system remains thin, with starting pitching the one area of strength but none of it close to the majors.

Kyle Crick has power stuff, two plus pitches, but poor command and a need for a third weapon. Andrew Susac gets far too little attention within the industry, in my opinion. He's a solid-average regular, a catcher who receives fine, throws well and has above-average power. Edwin Escobar has the upside of the three arms I have in the No. 3, 4 and 5 spots on the list, with the above-average fastball/changeup combo, whereas Clayton Blackburn has the command and control, looking like a good back-end starter but without much ceiling.

Christian Arroyo won't stay at shortstop, but I see an offensive-minded second baseman with good feel to hit. He'll have to find more power to profile as a quality regular there, or become a more patient hitter so he can rack up high OBP. Mac Williamson can run, throw and hit for power, but the knock is his bat speed, which may not handle better velocity so well when he reaches Double- or Triple-A. Ty Blach had a tremendous pro debut in 2013, showing back-of-the-rotation stuff and superlative control, but his history of shoulder trouble makes him more likely to end up in a relief role.

Their rookie-level Arizona League team had a few arms worth keeping in the back of your mind in lefty Luis Ysla and righty Keury Mella; Mella's younger and the ball seems to explode out of his hand, so he just overmatched hitters in the complex league. Joe Panik remains in the system as a potential utility infielder.

2014 impact

Reliever Heath Hembree has been on the cusp of the majors for two years but has had trouble staying healthy, finally debuting in September and throwing well enough that he'll probably stick with the team this April.

The fallen

Gary Brown does it all wrong for a guy with plus speed and range in center. He doesn't play hard, he doesn't take well to instruction, and he doesn't make adjustments at the plate. At this point, he's probably a fourth or fifth outfielder, unless he's willing to alter his swing so he can make better contact.


Joan Gregorio is a 6-7 right-hander whose fastball is up to 96 mph with a hard mid-80s slider and is just now starting to fill out physically. His arm works well, and his main issue going forward is getting more on top of his fastball so he can use his height to generate plane and keep the ball out of the air.
post #19738 of 73441
Damn, one of my HS teammates is on Law's fallen section
post #19739 of 73441
Originally Posted by madj55 View Post

New addition to the bobblehead collection smokin.gif

The Nats released their promo schedule today, a lot of bobblehead nights and a Jayson Werth garden gnome laugh.gif but nothing too exciting besides that.

Are any of your teams scheduling any good giveaways this year?

That's a sick bobblehead.

Dodgers giving out a million bobbleheads this year, going to the well way too much.

That "alternate" road jersey, mean.gif, half assed money grab. laugh.gif
Instagram: backyardlobo
Instagram: backyardlobo
post #19740 of 73441
Is there a list out of what the Dodgers bobbleheads will be? Would like to add to my small collection.
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