The Top 50 Fantasy Prospects for 2014: Updated by Marc Hulet April 28, 2014 Welcome to the regularly updated Top 50 Impact Rookies for 2014. This ranking tool grades freshman players based on their projected MLB impacts for 2014 only (not future years) so it will vary significantly from typical Top 50 or 100 prospects lists. *Masahiro Tanaka (and other Japanese hurlers) has been omitted due to his service time in Japan, as well as the level of competition. Cuban and Mexican imports have not been omitted due to the lower level of competition in their respective countries. Updated: April 28, 2014 RoY Fav Jose Abreu | White Sox (1B) April 28: It’s been an up-and-down month for Abreu’s value but he’s currently leading rookies in WAR at 0.9, as well as in home runs with 10, RBIs with 31 and weighted runs created (wRC+) at 152. In fact, he’s leading the Majors in home runs and RBI. The White Sox would be kind of lost without him right now. April 21: Just over a week ago, commenters were up-in-arms that Abreu wasn’t No. 1 on this list but we’ve now seen what makes The Show so damn tough. After striking out just five times in his first 10 games, the Cuban import has gone down on strikes 11 times in his next seven contests. His batting average on balls in play (BABIP) is sitting at .224. April 10: Abreu, a Cuba native, entered the 2014 season with a lot of question marks given his lack of track record in North America. A solid spring and respectable start to the MLB season has helped to alleviate some of those concerns. Steady Xander Bogaerts | Red Sox (SS) Age PA BB% K% AVG OBP SLG wOBA wRC+ Off Def WAR 20 50 10.0 % 26.0 % .250 .320 .364 .304 86 -0.4 0.2 0.2 April 28: It’s more of the same for Bogaerts. He continues to get on base but the raw power remains, well, raw and under-utilized. Still, solid returns for a 21 year old saddled with playing in a city that (rightfully so) has high expectations — and there haven’t been many more than a handful of good offensive performances by rookies in the American League thus far. April 21: The “bad news” (or at least less good) is that Bogaerts has struck out 15 times in 17 games and has a slugging percentage hovering around .350. The good news, is that he’s shown a discerning eye at the plate that has led to an on-base percentage above .400. The 21-year-old shortstop is certainly giving no indication that Boston’s front office should regret walking away from free agent Stephen Drew. April 10: With Boston’s decision not to resign veteran shortstop Stephen Drew, Bogaerts was handed the starting shortstop gig in Boston at the age of 21. The regular playing time — as well as his advanced feeling for hitting — makes him an early favorite for the Rookie of the Year award in the American League (along with the Yankee’s Japanese import Masahiro Tanaka). Rising Yordano Ventura | Royals (P) Age IP K/9 BB/9 GB% ERA FIP xFIP RA9-WAR WAR 22 15.1 6.46 3.52 48.9 % 3.52 5.33 4.30 0.3 0.0 April 28: If there is one thing 2014 has not been, it’s the Year of the Rookie Starter. Only four rookie hurlers have surpassed the 20-inning mark to date and, of those, only Yankees “rookie” Masahiro Tanaka and Ventura have been dominant more often than not. The diminutive Royals pitcher hurled eight shutout innings — with eight strikeouts — against the Orioles in his last outing. April 21: Good things are bound to happen to a pitcher when he throws strikes (his latest start not withstanding) and sits at 97 mph with his heater. Ventura has also done a nice job of utilizing his secondary offerings — a curveball and a changeup — in the early going and has relied on his fastball only 53% of the time. April 10: The slight-of-frame Ventura adds some youth to a veteran-heavy starting rotation in Kansas City, which also features four 30+ year old arms. The young hurler can tickle triple digits with his heater but his pitcher’s frame hints at a potential lack of durability over the long haul. Steady Jackie Bradley | Red Sox (OF) Age PA BB% K% AVG OBP SLG wOBA wRC+ Off Def WAR 23 107 9.3 % 29.0 % .189 .280 .337 .279 69 -3.0 -2.3 -0.2 April 28: Bogaerts gets all the hype for Bradley is quietly going about his business. He’s doing a little bit of everything — except perhaps hitting for average — and actually has the third highest WAR amongst rookie hitters (thanks to a significant boost from his defense). April 21: Originally slated for Triple-A, injuries forced the Sox to promote Bradley before opening day and he’s struggled to settle in at the Big League level. The young outfielder has 17 strikeouts and a .298 slugging percentage in 16 games. With veteran Shane Victorino possibly returning in the coming days it could result in a demotion for the rookie. April 10: Bradley was already optioned to triple-A when an injury sent veteran outfielder Shane Victorino to the disabled list, and created a 25-man roster spot for the freshman on opening day. He’ll have to continue swinging an incredibly hot bat to avoid being demoted when the Flyin’ Hawaiian returns from the infirmary. Steady Nick Castellanos | Tigers (3B/OF) Age PA BB% K% AVG OBP SLG wOBA wRC+ Off Def WAR 21 18 0.0 % 5.6 % .278 .278 .278 .247 48 -1.2 -0.8 -0.2 April 28: The young third baseman has one of the higher batting averages and one of the lowest strikeout rates among AL rookies. He’s also showing a little pop and playing better-than-expected defense at the hot corner. In other words, so far so good for Castellanos in 2014. April 21: Castellanos has started about three-quarters of the games at third base for the Tigers to date. He hasn’t done anything tremendous at the plate yet but he’s holding his own and not embarrassing himself in the field, either. April 10: The Tigers’ veteran-laden lineup allows the organization to ease the young Castellanos into his first full big league season. There aren’t many questions surrounding his bat (other than perhaps the power tool) but his defense at the hot corner remains a concern — especially considering he spent more than a year playing in the outfield. Slipping Travis d’Arnaud | Mets (C) Age PA BB% K% AVG OBP SLG wOBA wRC+ Off Def WAR 24 112 10.7 % 18.8 % .202 .286 .263 .254 60 -4.8 0.1 -0.1 April 28: d’Arnaud continues to play regularly behind the plate for the Mets but he’s doing more good with his glove than with his bat (.589 OPS). Encouraging signs can be seen from his 10% walk rate and 14.5% strikeout rate, both of which hint at future success once the BABIP gods (.240) stop hating on him. April 21: It’s hard to have success at the plate when you have a BABIP hovering around .150. Give the young catcher some credit, though, as his strong walk rate (more than 12%) has helped him compensate somewhat for his lack of ability to hit the ball with authority. Backup Anthony Recker has hit well in a limited opportunity, which helps to take some of the pressure off the rookie while he looks to find his footing. April 10: The organization has some interesting catching depth in terms of second- and third-string catchers but there are no true threats to d’Arnaud’s starting backstop gig. Now, all he has to do is stay healthy — which has been easier said than done during his minor league career. Rising Kevin Gausman | Orioles (P) Age IP K/9 BB/9 GB% ERA FIP xFIP RA9-WAR WAR 22 47.2 9.25 2.45 42.0 % 5.66 3.99 3.04 -0.2 0.4 April 28: Maybe the late addition of Ubaldo Jimenez wasn’t such a good thing? The veteran hurler currently possesses a 6.59 ERA with 17 walks in 27.1 innings while the young Gausman hasn’t allowed a run in his last two starts. Aside from perhaps Chris Tillman, none of Baltimore’s starting pitchers has performed consistently well. April 21: You know you’re in a good position when you have an asset like Gausman waiting in the wings in triple-A. The 23-year-old hurler has looked OK in the early going with 15 strikeouts and a strong ground-ball rate in 16.2 innings of work at the Triple-A level but he’s struggled with both his command and control (eight walks). April 10: Baltimore’s addition of veteran free agent starter Ubaldo Jimenez ensured that Gausman would open the 2014 season in the minors where he serves as excellent injury insurance. It should only be a matter of time before the young hurler is sitting atop the Orioles’ starting rotation. Steady Oscar Taveras | Cardinals (OF) Age PA H 2B HR BB SO SB AVG OBP SLG wOBA 21 188 54 13 5 10 22 5 .310 .348 .471 .361 April 28: Despite all the ankle hoopla, Taveras continues to have a Taveras-like season with a strong batting average and solid pop. If the Cardinals continue to struggle to produce offense, it may become harder to ignore the 21-year-old Dominican outfielder plugging away at Triple-A. April 21: Luckily, Taveras’ ankle has held up and he’s played in 15 triple-A games to date. The left-handed hitter has been especially strong against southpaws with an OPS of more than 1.000. Currently, there’s no room at the inn for another outfielder in St. Louis but the young Dominican looks like a viable option for a promotion in the event of an injury. April 10: Taveras continues to be haunted by the fallout over an ankle injury that he suffered in 2013. The young outfielder will continue to polish his game at the triple-A level while waiting for an injury (or another move) to open up an opportunity for him in The Show. The majority of St. Louis’ power comes from the right side of the plate so Taveras should be a welcomed addition. RoY Fav Chris Owings | Diamondbacks (SS) Age PA BB% K% AVG OBP SLG wOBA wRC+ Off Def WAR 21 61 9.8 % 16.4 % .291 .361 .382 .326 102 0.3 1.2 0.4 April 28: Owings is the early surprise of the 2014 season as he currently leads all rookie hitters (minimum 40 AB) in WAR — thanks to his surprisingly-consistent defense. A very aggressive hitter in the minors, the young shortstop has a 9% walk rate in the early going. April 21: I’ve always been reluctant to buy into Owings as an above-average valued prospect because of his historical reliance on high BABIPS and his walk rates of 3-4%. In the early going in Arizona, though, the young shortstop’s walk rate is above 8%. On the downside, just two of his 16 hits have gone for extra base hits and he’s striking out at a pretty high clip. April 10: When spring training opened, young defensive whiz Didi Gregorius appeared to be the favorite to open the year as the big league club’s starting shortstop. Owings’ potential at the plate, though, proved to be too hard to ignore and the former was sent to Triple-A. The biggest concern with the latter is his aggressive nature, which could lead to a dependence on his batting average to pad his on-base percentage. Falling Archie Bradley | Diamondbacks (P) Age G GS IP H HR K/9 BB/9 ERA FIP 20 26 26 152.0 115 6 9.59 4.09 1.84 2.94 April 28: The young right-hander’s season continues to be erratic (five runs on seven hits and four walks in 4.0 during his last start) and he doesn’t look like an option for The Snakes in the first half of 2014. Left-handed hitters have a .303 batting average against Bradley in the early going. April 21: Bradley performed well through his first two minor league starts (two runs on seven hits in 12.0 IP) but he got beat around a bit in his last start. Despite that blip, though, he’s still on pace to reach The Show sooner rather than later with the likes of Josh Collmenter and Michael Bolsinger in the Snakes’ starting rotation. April 10: A lot of young pitchers have been bitten by the injury bug early on in 2014 but Bradley has so far been able to avoid the curse. Just 21 years old and pitching in triple-A, the Oklahoma native could be in the Diamondbacks big league rotation before the all-star break. Slipping Noah Syndergaard | Mets (P) Age G GS IP H HR K/9 BB/9 ERA FIP 20 23 23 117.2 107 11 10.17 2.14 3.06 2.97 April 28: Las Vegas is a notoriously bad place to call home and Syndergaard has made four of his five starts there in 2014. He’s allowed nine runs (seven earned) in his last two starts (9.0 IP) and neither his command nor his control has been overly sharp. April 21: Tossing a 21-year-old pitcher into the potent Pacific Coast League sounds like a recipe for disaster but this prospect can take the heat. Syndergaard has looked good through his first three starts with a strong ground-ball rate and 12 strikeouts and one homer allowed in 16.0 innings pitched. April 10: The 2012 R.A. Dickey trade continues to look worse for the Blue Jays with each passing day thanks to the continued emergence of Syndergaard. The 38th overall selection from the 2010 amateur draft — who won’t turn 22 until August — opened the 2014 season in Triple-A and should reach the Majors no later than the second half of the year. Rising Gregory Polanco | Pirates (OF) Age PA H 2B HR BB SO SB AVG OBP SLG wOBA 21 536 134 30 12 52 73 38 .285 .356 .434 .361 April 28: Polanco’s bat might have slowed down a bit in recent days but he added five walks over the past four games. Impressively, the left-handed hitter is batting .400 against both right- and left-handed pitchers but also has eight of his nine walks coming against southpaws. April 21: Polanco, 22, has been unconscious at the Triple-A level. With an OPS of more than 1.100 and just five strikeouts in 14 games, he’s no doubt licking his chops at Travis Snider’s .677 OPS. The left-handed hitter has shown an early competency against southpaws by going 12-for-24 in 14 games. A promotion cannot be far off, although service time considerations are always lurking in the background. April 10: One of the biggest breakout prospects from 2013, Polanco lacks a clear path to a permanent big league job in 2014. With that said, another slow start by former No. 1 draft pick Travis Snider could open up a spot for the talented prospect who will bide his time in triple-A. Steady Taijuan Walker | Mariners (P) Age IP K/9 BB/9 GB% ERA FIP xFIP RA9-WAR WAR 20 15.0 7.20 2.40 38.1 % 3.60 2.25 3.80 0.2 0.5 April 28: Walker continues to throw on the side lines and has yet to get back into game action. April 21: Walker finally looked close to contributing at the big league level but he suffered a shoulder impingement during his minor league rehab (17 Ks, two BBs in 9.1 IP) and will be shut down again for the foreseeable future. April 10: Walker has a chance to be a key contributor to the Mariners’ 2014 season but he has to first shake the shoulder woes that have plagued him early in the year. Steady James Paxton | Mariners (P) Age IP K/9 BB/9 GB% ERA FIP xFIP RA9-WAR WAR 24 24.0 7.88 2.63 59.1 % 1.50 3.26 3.08 1.1 0.5 April 28: Like with Walker, Paxton continues to work on the side with an eye on pitching in official game action in early to mid May. The Mariners’ patchwork rotation continues to perform respectably. April 21: With Taijuan Walker still on the shelf, Paxton got off to a fast start in Seattle before hitting the disabled list himself thanks to a strained lat. The injury came at an unfortunate time as he was displaying improved control (two walks) and command (pounding the lower half of the strike zone) through the first 12.0 innings of his freshman season. April 10: With the injury to Taijuan Walker, Paxton becomes the Mariners most intriguing young starter at the beginning of 2014. The Canadian southpaw can be down right dominant when he’s consistently commanding the ball and he has the frame to be a durable workhorse. Paxton looked extremely strong during his first two big league starts of the 2014 season but he then hit the disabled list with a lat strain. Steady Carlos Martinez | Cardinals (P) Age IP K/9 BB/9 GB% ERA FIP xFIP RA9-WAR WAR 21 28.1 7.62 2.86 52.3 % 5.08 3.08 3.83 -0.3 0.3 April 28: St. Louis has received some exceptional starting pitching in 2014. Consider that, and then look to closer Trevor Rosenthal’s struggles and you can understand why the Cardinals have kept Martinez in the bullpen. He struck out the side in his most recent outing. April 21: After a strong start to the year, Joe Kelly — who beat out Martinez for the final starting rotation spot — hit the disabled list. The young Dominican remains the favorite to slide into the rotation should the injury turn out to be a long-term issue but he’ll remain in the bullpen for now where he’s been a significant asset. April 10: It wasn’t a huge surprise to see Martinez break camp with the Cardinals but it was somewhat of a shock to see him lose out on a starting gig in favor of Joe Kelly. The young Dominican arm has the talent to eventually develop into a shutdown, ninth-inning arm… or a No. 2 starter if he finds his way back to the starting rotation. Steady Marcus Stroman | Blue Jays (P) Age G GS IP H HR K/9 BB/9 ERA FIP 22 29 20 123.1 107 13 10.36 2.19 3.28 3.21 April 28: The right-hander allowed 10 hits in his last start (5.1 IP) at Triple-A and he’s been inconsistent to date. However, with Toronto’s starting rotation seemingly incapable of providing more than three or four solid innings a game, the young prospect may be called on sooner rather than later (ready or not). April 21: Stroman allowed two runs in his first Triple-A start of 2014 and then kept opponents from scoring an earned run his next two starts. To date, the 5-9 righty has done a nice job of creating a downward plane on his pitches, which has resulted in a strong ground-ball rate, which has helped him survive against some veteran minor league hitters. April 10: There is a fairly significant divide in opinions about Stroman’s future at the big league level. Some see the 5-9 hurler as a future starter while others see a future high-leverage reliever due to concerns over his lack of pitch plane and possible injury risk. I personally fall into the latter category. Falling George Springer | Astros (OF) April 28: Springer has a tough task as a rookie in an under-performing lineup. A lot of rookies can hide behind established veterans who are able to take some of the pressure off the freshman hitters. Not so in Houston, where Springer sticks out like a sore thumb, as does his +30% strikeout rate. April 21: Super 2 cutoffs be damned. It took just 13 Triple-A games for Houston to pull the trigger on a promotion for the organization’s No. 1 prospect. And just three games into his big league career, the young outfielder was already hitting cleanup (displacing Jose Altuve, after a laughable decision to bat the diminutive second baseman in that hole). Springer, 24, should infuse some excitement into the big league product but his high strikeout rate suggests some bumps in the road lie ahead. April 10: A lot of Houston fans really wanted to see Spring on the opening day roster but the cautious approach is probably the correct approach. Although he slugged 37 home runs between double-A and triple-A in 2013, his strikeout rate of more than 26% suggests he has some holes to close before he becomes an impact bat in The Show so there is no point in burning his service time. Slipping Marcus Semien | White Sox (2B/3B) Age PA BB% K% AVG OBP SLG wOBA wRC+ Off Def WAR 22 71 1.4 % 31.0 % .261 .268 .406 .291 77 -2.8 1.5 0.1 April 28: Semien has created his fair share of runs but he’s not hitting well — as witnessed by his strikeout rate, which is nearing 30%. Incumbent second baseman Gordon Beckham is back from a rehab assignment and the injury to third baseman Conor Gillaspie may have bought the rookie some more time on the 25-man roster. April 21: Things could get interesting in and around the keystone in Chicago in the near future. Semien, currently seeing the bulk of time at the position despite hitting under .200 with 21 strikeouts in 16 games, could be in danger of losing his job with incumbent Gordon Beckham now on the rehab trail. Double-A second baseman — and speedster — Micah Johnson has been swinging a hot bat so Semien could soon face threats from all sides. April 10: Former first round draft pick Gordon Beckham continues to fall out of favor in Chicago, which is to the benefit of Semien — who can play multiple infield positions. The White Sox big league club has an intriguing mix of young players on the 25-man roster — which is all the more impressive considering how poorly ranked the minor league system has been over the past few years. Rising Jimmy Nelson | Brewers (P) Age IP K/9 BB/9 GB% ERA FIP xFIP RA9-WAR WAR 24 10.0 7.20 4.50 41.7 % 0.90 2.95 3.77 0.4 0.1 April 28: Two things remain consistent: The Brewers continue to be the most surprising team in baseball, and Nelson continues to pitch like a big league hurler at the Triple-A level. April 21: Starting pitching has been an unexpected strength of the first-place Brewers, which has left Nelson awaiting his opportunity while pitching at the Triple-A level. To his credit, he’s gone about his business and pitched extremely well through 18.0 innings to date with 16 strikeouts, just 11 hits and a plethora of ground-ball outs. April 10: Nelson is a big, strong hurler who projects to develop into a solid mid-rotation starter. However, the addition of free agent hurler Matt Garza helped to ensure that the young right-hander would open the year in Triple-A to serve as organizational depth in the event of an injury. Falling Billy Hamilton | Reds (OF) Age PA BB% K% AVG OBP SLG wOBA wRC+ Off Def WAR 22 22 9.1 % 18.2 % .368 .429 .474 .398 155 4.1 0.8 0.6 April 28: If it weren’t for Toronto’s Ryan Goins, Hamilton would have the most limp offensive contribution in the 2014 rookie class thanks to a 45 wRC+ (weight runs created). And he’s just not getting on base enough (.253 OBP) to utilize his plus-plus speed. April 21: Like with Jose Abreu, I received a fair bit of flack for a cautious ranking of Hamilton at the beginning of the season. The speedy outfielder earned the starting center-field job in 2014 despite posting an OPS of just .651 in Triple-A in ’13 and failing to prove that he can succeed against those hurlers, let alone big league arms. He’s looked significantly overmatched at the plate so far in ’14 and his 80-grade speed can only help compensate so much. April 10: The Reds announced during the offseason that Hamilton was the favorite to open the 2014 season as the club’s starting center-fielder. The front office failed to attract a better option so the speedster was installed in the lineup. Unfortunately, he has struggled with the bat (as expected). Despite that, his legs remain a dangerous weapon. Steady Eddie Butler | Rockies (P) Age G GS IP H HR K/9 BB/9 ERA FIP 22 28 28 149.2 96 9 8.60 3.13 1.80 3.57 April 28: Butler hasn’t exactly been dominating opponents recently but he’s inducing a ton of ground-ball outs and generally throwing well. The Rockies big league rotation is throwing reasonably well so there doesn’t appear to be a need to rush him. April 21: Through three minor league starts, Butler has performed exceptionally well with just five earned runs in 18.2 innings. He’s issued just three walks and allowed one home run with 17 strikeouts. With a number of unknown quantities (or, perhaps, disappointingly known) in the big league rotation, Butler could be a key arm in the second half of the year for Colorado. April 10: Colorado has two young, high-ceiling arms in the minors with Butler and 2013 No. 1 draft pick Jonathan Gray. However, I personally give the edge to the former due to his nasty stuff and ability to keep the ball down in the zone, which creates a higher ground-ball rate than the latter hurler with stronger fly-ball tendencies — something that’s magnified when pitching half your games in Colorado. Rising Jonathan Gray | Rockies (P) Age G GS IP H HR K/9 BB/9 ERA FIP 21 9 9 37.1 25 0 12.29 1.93 1.93 1.88 April 28: After a rough start to the year, Gray has rebounded over his last two starts. His appearance on April 23 was by far his best with eight strikeouts and no walks in 6.0 innings. He’s had some issues with splits in the early going; left-handed batters are hitting .313 while right-handed hitters are batting just .194. April 21: Gray opened the year in the same Double-A rotation as Eddie Butler (found higher on this list) but he’s struggled to find his footing. I continue to have concerns over his fly-ball tendencies and how well they’ll play out while pitching half his games in Colorado. With that said, his stuff is undeniably good when he can consistentlycommand it. April 10: The third overall selection in the 2013 draft, Gray was assigned to double-A to open the ’14 season — along with fellow Top 50 prospect and teammate Eddie Butler. The Oklahoma native has the ceiling of a No. 2 starter if he can find a way to survive pitching in Colorado. Slipping Jake Odorizzi | Rays (P) Age IP K/9 BB/9 GB% ERA FIP xFIP RA9-WAR WAR 23 29.2 6.67 2.43 32.2 % 3.94 3.89 4.33 0.3 0.3 April 28: Odorizzi managed to pitch just 3.1 innings in his most recent start. Still, the numerous pitching injuries in the organization give Odorizzi some additional rope. April 21: Rays hurlers continue to visit the infirmary at an alarming rate but Odorizzi has yet to take full advantage of his opportunity. He hasn’t exactly embarrassed himself but he hasn’t done anything to disprove my assessment of ceiling listed in the April 10 writeup below. April 10: The Rays’ starting rotation has been infested with elbow injuries, which creates a great opportunity for Odorizzi to establish himself as a big league hurler. He’s a little overhyped, though, and is more of a solid No. 4 starter than a true top-of-the-rotation arm. Steady Kyle Zimmer | Royals (P) Age G GS IP H HR K/9 BB/9 ERA FIP 21 22 22 108.1 91 11 11.63 2.99 4.32 3.17 April 28: Nothing new to report here. April 21: Zimmer, 22, remains in extended spring training where he’s building up strength in his shoulder and has yet to throw in an official game. Word on the street has Zimmer taking to a mound in the near future. April 10: The Royals already have one high-ceiling arm in their starting rotation with Yordano Ventura but a cautious approach to Zimmer’s development (borne out of injury woes) will all but ensure he’s not wearing a big league uniform until the second half of the 2014 season at the earliest. Falling Kolten Wong | Cardinals (2B) Age PA BB% K% AVG OBP SLG wOBA wRC+ Off Def WAR 22 62 4.8 % 19.4 % .153 .194 .169 .168 -1 -5.9 1.5 -0.3 April 28: Wong’s offensive contributions have been a disappointment thus far in 2014 but he remains the starter at second base with veteran backup Mark Ellis currently hitting .100 (2-for-20). The majority of the Cardinals lineup has been in a slump so they’re due to break out. April 21: The freshman second baseman performed without a safety net while veteran infielder Mark Ellis was on the disabled list and the results were a mixed bag. Ellis is now healthy, though, and Wong’s modest results early on could result in a little more time on the bench throughout the remainder of April. April 10: Wong beat out veteran second baseman Mark Ellis for the starting role at second base in St. Louis thanks to a solid spring performance. The 23-year-old Hawaii native may need a little more polish against southpaws before he realizes his full potential. Falling Matt Davidson | White Sox (3B) Age PA BB% K% AVG OBP SLG wOBA wRC+ Off Def WAR 22 87 11.5 % 27.6 % .237 .333 .434 .336 108 0.3 -1.0 0.2 April 28: The Sox’s regular third baseman Conor Gillaspie recently hit the disabled list but Davidson likely received little to no consideration for a promotion. The prospect is currently hitting just .172 with 38 strikeouts in 23 games. He’s produced a .105 batting average in his last 10 games. April 21: Davidson lost out on an opening day assignment in Chicago and he may not see the Majors any time soon if current trends continue. The prospect is performing just modestly at Triple-A while Conor Gillaspie — who won the starting third base gig for the Sox — continues to ride a strong BABIP to respectability. The good news is that the incumbent will eventually slip back into mediocrity while Davidson is bound to heat up. April 10: Acquired in the offseason from the Arizona Diamondbacks, Davidson was an early favorite to win the starting third base gig to open the year but he lost out to incumbent Conor Gillaspie. A strong showing in Triple-A by the rookie coupled with continued modest offensive outputs by the big league regular could cause a shift at the hot corner in the second half of the year. Steady Andrew Heaney | Marlins (P) Age G GS IP H HR K/9 BB/9 ERA FIP 22 26 25 123.0 95 4 8.27 2.56 1.68 2.78 April 28: The Marlins’ starting rotation one-through-four has been quite impressive but the No. 5 hole has been an issue. Heaney, with his good ground-ball numbers and solid control, may lay claim to that spot before the month of July. April 21: Assigned to Double-A to open the year, Heaney was roughed up a bit in his first start by allowing 10 hits in 5.1 innings. Since then he’s allowed just five hits in 12.0 innings over two more appearances. The lefty has shown strong control with just three walks and his offerings have been tough to lift into the air. April 10: The left-handed Heaney will soon be ready to join fellow talented young hurler Jose Fernandez in the Marlins’ rotation. With limited experience above Double-A, though, the Oklahoma native will likely spend the first half of the year in the minors. Slipping Javier Baez | Cubs (SS) Age PA H 2B HR BB SO SB AVG OBP SLG wOBA 20 577 146 34 37 40 147 20 .282 .341 .578 .409 April 28: Since returning from injury Baez has struggled to find consistency at the plate. He’s hitting just .164 with 21 strikeouts in 14 games at the Triple-A level. April 21: Baez’s season was interrupted by a trip to the disabled list thanks to a sprained ankle but he was reactivated this past weekend. At the time of the injury, he was hitting just .154 with 10 strikeouts through his first eight games — although three of his four hits went for extra bases. With some depth in the upper levels of the system, the organization can afford to be patient with Baez. April 10: Baez didn’t turn 21 until last December but he was assigned to triple-A to open the 2014 season. Despite his experience, the Puerto Rico native is coming off of a season that saw him slug 37 home runs between high-A and double-A. The biggest concerns with Baez are his future defensive home (likely shortstop or third base) and his high strikeout rate (more than 25% in 2013). Rising Kris Bryant | Cubs (3B) Age PA H 2B HR BB SO SB AVG OBP SLG wOBA 21 238 71 22 15 25 58 4 .346 .416 .702 .494 April 28: Bryant continues to swing a hot bat in Double-A despite his lack of experience (fewer than 60 games of pro ball). He’s not hitting more than .300 with 12 of his 24 hits going for extra bases. He also has 15 walks in 23 games but the 27 strikeouts are a tradeoff for the pop. I’ve said it multiple times in the last year; Bryant should have been the first overall selection in the 2013 amateur draft. April 21: As alluded to above, the Cubs have not had a lot of success at the big league level with infielders in 2014 — including Mike Olt, who was handed the opening day gig at the hot corner. However, help may not be far off. Bryant is having solid early returns at the Double-A level with 10 walks and eight extra base hits — including four home runs — in through his first 15 games. April 10: The second overall pick of the 2013 amateur draft, Bryant was assigned to double-A to open the 2014 season. Fellow third base prospect Mike Olt was given the opening day assignment at the big league level but his year-plus inability to hit could help hand the job to Bryant sooner rather than later. Rising Trevor Bauer | Indians (P) Age IP K/9 BB/9 GB% ERA FIP xFIP RA9-WAR WAR 22 17.0 5.82 8.47 35.3 % 5.29 7.05 6.60 -0.1 -0.3 April 28: The Cleveland Indians are currently in last place in the AL Central but just three games out of first place. The performance of the starting rotation has been inconsistent and the club may want to consider going with the hot hand before the team slips too far to recover. Bauer has a 1.40 ERA with 28 strikeouts in 25.2 innings, plus one solid big league spot start. April 21: The rumors of Bauer’s demise (from top prospect status) were greatly overstated. The right-hander is running on all cylinders right now, which has led to increased stuff and better results. He even received a spot start in Cleveland and struck out eight batters in 6.0 innings of work. Now, if only we could convince him that ground-ball outs have a greater value than fly-ball outs… Rising Stephen Piscotty | Cardinals (OF) Age PA H 2B HR BB SO SB AVG OBP SLG wOBA 22 571 159 26 16 46 60 18 .308 .368 .471 .379 April 28: A slow start to the season for Cardinals hitters has already led to a shuffling of the roster. Outfielder Randal Grichuk (obtained from the Angels in the offseason) received his first promotion even though Piscotty was having a strong offensive showing of his own. However, the business side no doubt helped swing the assignment in Grichuk’s favor — along with his strong spring training. The former Angels prospect is already on the 40-man roster while Piscotty doesn’t have to be added until after the 2015 season. April 21: The young outfielder’s impressive spring is in the rearview mirror now but he’s continued to swing a hot stick with a batting average of more than .320. Unfortunately, the corner outfielder has managed just four extra base hits and has struggled against same-handed pitching. There is still work to be done. April 10: Piscotty’s strong spring may have helped him leapfrog over top Cardinals prospect Oscar Taveras on the outfield depth chart. With that said, the latter prospect has a higher overall ceiling while the former is more polished than expected. A converted infielder, Piscotty is off to a strong start with the bat in triple-A. Steady Arismendy Alcantara | Cubs (2B/SS) Age PA H 2B HR BB SO SB AVG OBP SLG wOBA 21 571 134 36 15 62 125 31 .271 .352 .451 .365 April 28: Alcantara enjoyed a 5-for-7 night on the 26th that helped pull his average up. The young infielder is now hitting more than .300 but his 2-20 BB-K rate suggests he has some work to do before he’s ready to contribute at the big league level. April 21: Cubs’ incumbent shortstop Starlin Castro is showing signs of life but a number of other infielders are struggling including Darwin Barney, Luis Valbuena and Mike Olt. If those woes continue, Arismendy could earn a shot sooner rather than later — especially if he picks things up a little bit at the plate. April 10: Fellow infield prospect Javier Baez gets all the love from prospect watchers but Alcantara could turn out to be the better player in 2014 as he’s a little more polished and consistent. Chicago will no doubt struggle to find big league playing time for all its young infield talent but it’s a very good problem to have from the team’s perspective. Steady Rafael Montero | Mets (P) Age G GS IP H HR K/9 BB/9 ERA FIP 22 27 27 155.1 136 6 8.69 2.03 2.78 2.71 April 28: Like teammate Noah Syndergaard, Montero has faced a difficult environment in the Pacific Coast League in 2014. The right-hander has solid, but unspectacular, results thus far; he’s allowed seven runs in his last two starts (10.0 IP). April 21: Montero’s fourth start of the year was by far his worst but the right-hander has still compiled solid numbers to date. The right-handed Dominican native has struck out 24 batters in 21.1 innings of work. He’s adding fans by the day but his heavy-fly-ball tendencies give me pause over his ultimate ceiling. April 10: Noah Syndergaard gets the majority of the prospect love from New York fans but Montero has a lot of promise too. The Dominican native isn’t electric as his prospect-mate but he has solid stuff and above average command/control. He’ll bide his time in triple-A. Steady Byron Buxton | Twins (OF) Age PA H 2B HR BB SO SB AVG OBP SLG wOBA 19 633 174 20 15 81 120 57 .322 .411 .509 .417 April 28: Buxton is expected to see game action in extended spring training and could receive an assignment back to Double-A in the near future. The Twins outfielder entered the years as the top-rated player on FanGraphs Top 100 Prospects list. April 21: Minor League Baseball continues to be without the top prospect in the game while Buxton recovers from a wrist injury suffered in the spring. He’s expected to return to game action at some point in the early to mid May. Incumbent center-fielder Aaron Hicks is doing nothing to quiet concerns about his ability to hit at the major league level. Oswaldo Arcia, another exciting young outfielder, is also currently dealing with a wrist injury. April 10: Buxton could not have had a better 2013 season in high-A ball. The top prospect in baseball entered the 2014 on a fast track to the Majors but a wrist injury suffered during spring training but the brakes on his rapid ascent. Once he’s healthy, the Georgia native should be assigned to double-A. Rising Jesse Biddle | Phillies (P) Age G GS IP H HR K/9 BB/9 ERA FIP 21 27 27 138.1 104 10 10.02 5.33 3.64 3.88 April 28: If Biddle keeps this up, he could be the top left-handed pitching prospect in the game by midseason. The southpaw has struck out 21 batters — more importantly perhaps, with just two walks — over his last two starts (14.0 IP). Left-handed hitters are batting just .063 against him in the early going. April 21: The left-handed Biddle walked 82 batters in 138.1 Double-A innings in 2013 but he’s issued just six free passes through his first 21.1 innings of 2014. Aside from Cliff Lee, no Phillies starter has really impressed in the early going so Biddle has to be encouraged — and motivated — with the hopes of a second-half promotion to the Majors. April 10: The Phillies organization has suffered through some serious injuries to key pitching prospects over the past few months but Biddle — the club’s best — remains healthy but inconsistent. The lefty has solid stuff but inconsistent command and needs to add some polish before he’s entrusted with a key role in The Show. Rising Joc Pederson | Dodgers (OF) Age PA H 2B HR BB SO SB AVG OBP SLG wOBA 21 519 122 24 22 70 114 31 .278 .381 .497 .398 April 28: Pederson continues to swing a hot bat — against right-handers. The left-handed batter has some extreme splits in the early going: .458/.556/1.386 vs RHP, .185/.290/.222 vs LHP. Although he could probably help at the MLB level right now against right-handed pitching, he needs further polish against left-handers to ensure he’ll be a potent threat against against all hurlers. April 21: I clearly erred by not including Pederson on the first version of this list. The Dodgers’ veteran lineup doesn’t appear to have many holes or opportunities for the young outfielder but he’s doing everything he can to force himself into their plans for 2014. Pederson is hitting .422 with a 1.291 OPS through 17 games. He’s also walked as much as he’s struck out (14/14). Steady Jonathan Schoop | Orioles (2B/3B) Age PA BB% K% AVG OBP SLG wOBA wRC+ Off Def WAR 21 15 6.7 % 13.3 % .286 .333 .500 .364 128 0.5 -1.4 0.0 April 28: Schoop has been showing some good gap pop but he has just one walk to go along with 26 whiffs in 21 contests. With Manny Machado nearing the end of his rehab assignment, Schoop may soon find himself back in Triple-A where he can focus on adding a little more polish. April 21: The Curacao native has shown some promise but Schoop has yet to take a walk in 13 games, causing a real strain on his ability to hit for average. The versatile infielder has played mostly third base at the big league level — with modest results to date — but he’s also seen a little time at second base. Manny Machado, the Orioles’ regular third baseman, is nearing a rehab assignment as he works his way back from a knee injury suffered late last year. April 10: Schoop was a surprise addition to Baltimore’s opening day roster. He’s valuable due to his ability to play second base, third base and shortstop. The Orioles’ aggressive development plan for the Curacao native could end up having a negative impact on him, though, since he hasn’t had a dominating stretch with the bat since 2011. Falling Maikel Franco | Phillies (3B) Age PA H 2B HR BB SO SB AVG OBP SLG wOBA 20 581 173 36 31 30 70 1 .320 .356 .569 .411 April 28: Franco is starting to show signs of life — although his OPS remains below .500. The Phillies’ current third baseman (and sophomore) Cody Ashe has an OPS below .600 so the infield prospect is missing out on a great opportunity to catch the front office’s collective eye. April 21: Sophomore third baseman Cody Asche has gotten off to a terribly slow start with the Phillies but Franco has done himself no favors by posting an OPS of just .354 in 14 games. His strikeout rate is about 10% above his career norm and he’s also faced some bad luck with a BABIP of .162. April 10: Despite a breakout 2013 campaign and the added ability to play first base (as well as third), Franco has no clear path to the Majors thanks to the presence of veteran Ryan Howard (and his contract) at first base and fellow young player Cody Asche at the hot corner. He’ll continue to polish his game at the triple-A level. Steady Jon Singleton | Astros (1B) Age PA H 2B HR BB SO SB AVG OBP SLG wOBA 21 367 70 17 11 59 110 1 .230 .351 .401 .344 April 28: After a strong start to the year, Singleton has slowed down a bit. The mini slump has coincided with George Springer’s promotion so it’s possible that the first base prospect is pressing a bit. Perhaps the most impressive part of Singleton’s season to date is that he’s handled southpaws extremely well (albeit in limited exposure). April 21: With George Springer already enjoying life in The Show, the countdown is on for Singleton to join him. And the prospect is doing everything he can to catch the attention of the Astros front office. The first base prospect is hitting .343 and his seven home runs have helped him post a 1.196 OPS through his first 17 Triple-A games. April 10: The Astros club has a few high-ceiling players that could be ready to contribute to the big league club at some point in 2014. Singleton was assigned to triple-A to open the year but he has to make up for lost time incurred due to a 2013 suspension. He hasn’t hit overly well since returning to game action. Rising Alex Guerrero | Dodgers (PH/PR) April 28: After striking out just once in his first 12 games, Guerrero went down swinging three times on April 26. Still, he’s hitting well at Triple-A with a1.141 OPS in 13 games. It’s still early but the young second baseman is a definitely opening some eyes and could be an option if Hanley Ramirez’s thumb injury continues to hamper him. April 21: Guerrero was slowed earlier in the season with an oblique injury but he’s hit well since coming off the shelf. Through his first seven games he’s hitting .440 with just one strikeout. Unfortunately for him, the Dodgers’ big league second baseman, Dee Gordon, has also been unconscious at the plate (and on the base paths) much to the surprise of, well, just about everyone. April 10: LA fans had visions of sugar plums and Yasiel Puigs dancing in their heads when the Dodgers won the bidding for free agent Guerrero, a Cuba native. Unfortunately, he’s not nearly has polished as Puig was — nor is his bat as potent. He’ll spend some time in the minors while the Dodgers try and figure out what exactly they have in Guerrero. Steady Arodys Vizcaino | Cubs (P) Age IP K/9 BB/9 GB% ERA FIP xFIP RA9-WAR WAR 20 17.1 8.83 4.67 35.4 % 4.67 3.54 4.46 -0.1 0.1 April 28: The Chicago Cubs have received some strong pitching performances out of the bullpen in 2014 but relievers are known for being quite volatile. Even though he’s still pitching in High-A ball, Vizcaino — who had a little big league experience prior to all injuries — could be a strong candidate in the second half of the year. The right-hander allowed a run in just one of his first seven appearances. April 21: Vizcaino has been solid through five relief appearances at the High-A ball level and has allowed runs in just one of those aforementioned games. A promotion up to Double-A or Triple-A should be just around the corner and it wouldn’t be a shock to see him in the Majors early on in the second half of the season. April 10: Finally healthy after missing two full seasons (2012-13), Vizcaino is being eased back into game action with an assignment to high-A ball. The hard-thrower is also pitching out of the bullpen after spending most of his career in the starting rotation and it will be interesting to see if he remains in his new role for a long term. Falling Erik Johnson | White Sox (P) Age IP K/9 BB/9 GB% ERA FIP xFIP RA9-WAR WAR 23 27.2 5.86 3.58 46.4 % 3.25 5.40 4.73 0.1 -0.1 April 28: The right-handed Johnson completely melted down on April 25 with four walks in 1.2 innings of work, which earned him a trip back down to Triple-A. He’ll look to find some consistency out of the glare of the spotlight. April 21: Johnson has been hit hard in the early going with 22 hits allowed in his first three starts (17.0 innings). He’s been dealing with inconsistent command and diminished velocity, which is worrisome. April 10: The White Sox are well represented on this list and Johnson has the potential to be the most impactful freshman arm on the club in 2014. The right-hander has solid present stuff and a durable frame that should allow him to shoulder a lot of innings. Steady Francisco Lindor | Indians (SS) Age PA H 2B HR BB SO SB AVG OBP SLG wOBA 19 464 122 22 2 49 46 25 .303 .380 .407 .366 April 28: Ohio is still quite chilly this time of year and Lindor is hitting just .194 at home and .265 overall in the Eastern League. Despite the unfavorable elements, the Puerto Rico native continues to play well in the field and has shown good range at shortstop in the early going. April 21: Incumbent shortstop Asdrubal Cabrera is currently in the last year of his contract before hitting free agency and he’s not exactly doing anything at the plate (.671 OPS) to endear himself to his current employers. Meanwhile, Lindor is holding his own but, yet again, not doing anything too exciting with the stick at the Double-A level. At least not yet. April 10: Lindor, just 20, was assigned to double-A to open the 2014 season and he could see the Majors in the second half of the year — especially if incumbent shortstop Asdrubal Cabrera’s bat continues to fall short of expectation. Lindor has a stellar glove and an underrated bat. Steady Allen Webster | Red Sox (P) Age IP K/9 BB/9 GB% ERA FIP xFIP RA9-WAR WAR 23 30.1 6.82 5.34 43.1 % 8.60 6.51 5.18 -0.9 -0.3 April 28: Webster had his best start of the season on April 23 with just one run allowed and five strikeouts in 6.1 innings. It’s been a rough season in Boston to date so reinforcements may be needed sooner rather than later so it would be in Webster’s best interests to keep his best foot forward. April 21: Now in his seventh pro season, Webster has yet to solve Triple-A hitters. The hard-throwing right-hander has walked 12 batters while striking out just 11 in 20.0 innings of work. with the likes of Rubby de la Rosa, Anthony Ranaudo, Brandon Workman and Drake Britton also on the Triple-A roster, it will be difficult for Webster to differentiate himself from the pack. April 10: Predominantly a starter in the minors, a lack of consistent command has haunted the fireballer. It all but assures his future will lie in the bullpen at the big league level. Webster could ride the triple-A/MLB shuttle throughout the 2014 season but he doesn’t currently have a clear path to a permanent big league job in Boston. Steady Yangervis Solarte | Yankees (3B) April 28: Solarte continues to be one of the more valuable players on the Yankees roster. Not only is he hitting above .300, but he’s seen time at third base, second base and shortstop while the club shuffles players around to fill holes created by injuries. Unfortunately, the young infielder has been banged up a bit himself recently. April 21: Solarte continues to hang on to a coveted spot on this list. He’s hitting for average and gap power (seven doubles) while also controlling the strike zone well with seven walks and eight strikeouts in 17 games. He’s not likely to keep this up all season so enjoy the ride while you can. April 10: Along with Roenis Elias, Solarte may have been the least recognizable name on this list at the beginning of spring training. A long-time Minnesota Twins farmhand, he’s been one of the better hitters in the Majors early on in 2014 but he doesn’t profile overly well at the hot corner long term due to his lack of power. Rising Josmil Pinto | Twins (C/DH) Age PA BB% K% AVG OBP SLG wOBA wRC+ Off Def WAR 24 83 7.2 % 26.5 % .342 .398 .566 .418 169 6.6 -0.8 0.9 April 28: Pinto has slugged his way into regular playing time for the Twins thanks to 17 walks in 19 games — as well as five home runs, which puts him second on the team behind infielder Brian Dozier. The young catcher has appeared in just seven games behind the plate but he’s also started 11 games at designated hitter. Steady Daniel Webb | White Sox (P) Age IP K/9 BB/9 GB% ERA FIP xFIP RA9-WAR WAR 23 11.1 7.94 3.18 56.3 % 3.18 2.34 3.19 0.2 0.2 April 28: Webb has struggled with his control recently with six walks (and just three strikeouts) in his last 7.0 innings of work. The young right-hander has a history of command and control problems so hopefully this is just a minor bump in the road. April 21: Closer Nate Jones continues to bide his time on the disabled list and the entire Sox bullpen has just one save on the season (Matt Lindstrom). Webb hasn’t done anything to embarrass himself but also hasn’t given Manager Robin Ventura a good reason to trust him in late-game situations. April 10: The trade of former closer Addison Reed to Arizona during the offseason left a hole at the back end of the White Sox bullpen. It was supposed to be filled by Nate Jones but the powerful arm hit the disabled list with a hip injury. There are still a lot of hard-throwing arms in the bullpen but Webb remains a candidate to see some save opportunities. Rising Alex Meyer | Twins (P) Age G GS IP H HR K/9 BB/9 ERA FIP 23 23 23 104.1 87 6 11.04 3.36 3.02 2.98 April 28: Meyer is having a strong season in Triple-A and his only real blemish came two starts ago when he allowed five runs in 3.2 innings of work. He rebounded on April 23 (with an exclamation mark) when he struck out 11 batters with no runs allowedin 6.2 innings. Falling Michael Choice | Rangers (OF) Age PA BB% K% AVG OBP SLG wOBA wRC+ Off Def WAR 23 19 5.3 % 31.6 % .278 .316 .333 .290 83 -0.4 0.0 0.0 April 28: The inconsistent playing time at the big league level hasn’t agreed with Choice, who’s hitting just .217/.321/.304 in 20 games (46 at-bats). He might benefit from a trip to Triple-A to get his swing back in shape. April 21: When you have three starting outfielders all hitting .300 or better, it’s difficult for the fourth outfielder to find consistent playing time. Into late April, Choice has made just four starts. Not surprisingly, his bat has been slow to wake from its winter sleep. April 10: An offseason trade from Oakland to Texas alleviated some of the depth ahead of Choice, but he still ended up with a club with a strong starting outfield. As a result, he’s been relegated to back-up role in the Majors in 2014. Steady Roenis Elias | Mariners (P) April 28: He’s not flashy but Elias continues to pitch well for a back-end starter. He struck out six batters in 5.2 innings during his last start but it’s his inconsistent control that continues to hold him back. April 21: Elias continues to hang on to his starting rotation spot with respectable numbers but he was beaten up in his last appearance. Still, you have to be impressed by the way he’s come out of nowhere to provide some much needed innings for a Mariners rotation that’s been hit hard by the injury bug. April 10: A little known prospect prior to the spring, Elias secured a starting rotation gig as the Mariners’ promising young arms dropped like flies and landed on the disabled list. The Cuba native isn’t flashy but he mixes his pitches well and has been durable over the past two seasons. And it doesn’t hurt that he’s left handed.