Welcome to the annual series: ‘A Minor (League) Review of 2014.” This series is a great way to receive a quick recap of the 2014 minor league season for your favorite club(s), while also receiving a brief look toward the 2015 season and beyond. It can also be a handy feature for fantasy baseball players in keeper and Dynasty leagues.
The Graduate: Jose Abreu, 1B: Abreu entered the 2014 season as one of the most enigmatic players, and he’ll exit the year as one of the best hitters in baseball. The Cuba native will likely finish his first big league campaign with a batting average of more than .300, at least 35 home runs, as well as 100-plus RBIs. The only real knock on his freshman season is the 46-125 BB-K rate.
The Riser: Tyler Danish, RHP: As an amateur, Danish had his detractors because of his lack of size and unusual delivery. Less than two years later, though, he’s one of the most intriguing arms in the minors. Just 20, he boasts a career ERA of 1.92 in 159.2 innings of work and has shown good control to go with an ability to both miss bats and induce a plethora of ground-ball outs.
The Tumbler: Matt Davidson, 3B: When the Sox parted with proven closer Addison Reed last offseason, they thought they were getting back their third-baseman-of-the-future in Davidson. At the time of the trade, he was coming off a successful Triple-A campaign that saw him post an .831 OPS and earn a late-season promotion to The Show. Unfortunately, he completely unravelled after the deal to Chicago and hit just .199/.283/.362 during a second run through Triple-A.
The ’14 Draft Pick: Carlos Rodon, LHP: A potential first-overall pick for the 2014 draft, the North Carolina State star lasted until the third pick when Chicago happily scooped him up. He rocketed his way through the minor leagues and reached Triple-A where he made three starts before the season ended. He’ll likely compete for a spot in the big league rotation in spring ’15.
The Lottery Ticket: Micker Adolfo Zapata, OF: The Sox aren’t big players in the international market but they ponied up $1.6 million for the powerfully-built outfielder. He has impressive power potential but is still quite raw. The 18-year-old prospect made his pro debut in Rookie ball in 2014 and struck out 85 times (with just 14 walks) in 46 games.
The Graduate: Yordano Ventura, RHP: Generously listed at 6-0, 180 pounds, Ventura is the epitome of the small-bodied hurler but there is nothing little about what comes out of his hand. The Dominican averages 97 mph on the fastball while sprinkling in three other offerings. After never pitching more than 134.2 innings prior to 2014, he’s held up well in 172.0 innings to date but it will be interesting to see how he’s handled if the Royals make it into the playoffs.
The Riser: Christian Binford, RHP: Binford doesn’t have electric stuff like Ventura but his average heater has plenty of movement and his above-average control helps his stuff play up. The tall right-hander also flashes a plus changeup but the development of his breaking ball will be important if he’s going to continue to have success as a big league starter.
The Tumbler: Jorge Bonifacio, OF: Emilio Bonifacio’s brother entered 2014 as the fifth-best prospect in the Royals system but suffered through a disappointing year. His power failed to develop while he continued to strike out like a power-hitter with 127 Ks in 132 games. His triple-slash line of .230/.302/.309 certainly suggests that a return engagement to Double-A is in the cards for 2015.
The ’14 Draft Pick: Brandon Finnegan, LHP: Selected 17th overall out of Texas Christian University in 2014, this southpaw reached the Majors after just 13 pro appearances. Finnegan then found himself in the middle of a playoff run and pitched scoreless ball through his first four big league appearances out of the bullpen. Look for him to return to his starting gig in 2015.
The Lottery Ticket: Chase Vallot, C: Vallot has two intriguing power tools in his powerful bat and strong right arm. The teenaged catcher hit just .215 in his pro debut in 2014 with 81 strikeouts in 53 at-bats but 21 of his 40 hits went for extra bases (including seven homers). A conclusive decision on his future behind the plate is still up in the air but he has the tools necessary to play an outfielder corner, or maybe even third base.
The Graduate: Danny Santana, SS/OF: The Twins entered 2014 with one of the strongest minor league systems in the game but injuries kept top prospects Byron Buxton and Miguel Sano off the field. Despite those heartbreaking losses, the Twins still benefited from a number of first-year players’ performances, including Santana. Despite questionable walk and strikeouts rates, the infielder-turned-outfielder produced solid offensive numbers and played a decent centre field while learning the new role on the fly.
The Riser: J.O. Berrios, RHP: Berrois, 20, has never received the full love he deserves because he’s a smallish right-hander who relied on good command/control. His stuff ticked up in 2014 and he now possesses two potentially-plus offerings, which helped him strike out 140 batters in as many innings — to go along with his 38 free passes. Berrios received a brief taste of Triple-A in ’14 and should return there in 2015. Look for him to reach the Majors in the second half of the year.
The Tumbler: Eddie Rosario, 2B/OF: Coming off a breakout 2013 season, Rosario suffered nothing but disappointments in ’14 — both on and off the field. His .674 OPS was by far the worst offensive result of his five-year career and the year was more or less a write-off in terms of development. Look for him to return to the Double-A level in 2015.
The ’14 Draft Pick: Nick Gordon, SS: The Dodgers’ Dee Gordon has some early-season success in 2014 and that may have helped to shine the spotlight a little brighter on little brother Nick, who was selected fifth overall in the 2014 draft. The younger Gordon isn’t as fleet of foot but he has a chance to be a better all-around player.
The Lottery Ticket: Lewis Thorpe, LHP: Baseball has had its share of intriguing Australian prospects but few have panned out as hoped. Thorpe has an intriguing (and high) ceiling but he also remains a raw work-in-progress. On a positive note, he struck out 80 batters in 71.2 Low-A ball innings. A recently-diagnosed sprained elbow ligament adds another obstacle for the southpaw to overcome.
Marc Hulet has been writing at FanGraphs since 2008. His work focuses on prospects and fantasy. Follow him on Twitter @marchulet.