- Keith Law, ESPN Insider
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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 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 comprises 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.
1. Byron Buxton, CF
Age: 20 | DOB: 12/18/93 | B/T: R/R
Height: 6-2 | Weight: 189
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
2. Xander Bogaerts, SS
Age: 21 | DOB: 10/1/92 | B/T: R/R
Height: 6-3 | Weight: 185
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
3. Addison Russell, SS
Age: 20 | DOB: 1/23/94 | B/T: R/R
Height: 6-0 | Weight: 195
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
4. Carlos Correa, SS
Age: 19 | DOB: 9/22/94 | B/T: R/R
Height: 6-4 | Weight: 205
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
5. Oscar Taveras, OF
Age: 21 | DOB: 6/19/92 | B/T: L/L
Height: 6-2 | Weight: 200
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
6. Francisco Lindor, SS
Age: 20 | DOB: 11/14/93 | B/T: B/R
Height: 5-11 | Weight: 175
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
7. Javier Baez, SS
Age: 21 | DOB: 12/1/92 | B/T: R/R
Height: 6-0 | Weight: 195
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
8. Miguel Sano, 3B
Age: 20 | DOB: 5/11/93 | B/T: R/R
Height: 6-3 | Weight: 195
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
9. Archie Bradley, RHP
Age: 21 | DOB: 8/10/92 | B/T: R/R
Height: 6-4 | Weight: 225
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
10. Kyle Zimmer, RHP
Age: 22 | DOB: 9/13/91 | B/T: R/R
Height: 6-3 | Weight: 215
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
11. Mark Appel, RHP
Age: 21 | DOB: 7/15/91 | B/T: R/R
Height: 6-5 | Weight: 190
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
12. Jonathan Gray, RHP
Age: 22 | DOB: 11/5/91 | B/T: R/R
Height: 6-4 | Weight: 255
Gray burst on the amateur scene last February when he hit 98 mph 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
13. Gregory Polanco, RF
Age: 22 | DOB: 9/14/91 | B/T: L/L
Height: 6-4 | Weight: 220
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
14. Julio Urias, LHP
Age: 17 | DOB: 8/12/96 | B/T: L/L
Height: 5-11 | Weight: 160
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
15. Kris Bryant, 3B
Age: 22 | DOB: 1/4/92 | B/T: R/R
Height: 6-5 | Weight: 215
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
16. Taijuan Walker, RHP
Age: 21 | DOB: 8/13/92 | B/T: R/R
Height: 6-4 | Weight: 210
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
17. Eddie Butler, RHP
Age: 23 | DOB: 3/13/91 | B/T: B/R
Height: 6-2 | Weight: 180
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
18. Corey Seager, SS
Age: 20 | DOB: 4/27/94 | B/T: L/R
Height: 6-4 | Weight: 215
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
19. George Springer, OF
Age: 24 | DOB: 9/19/89 | B/T: R/R
Height: 6-3 | Weight: 200
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
20. Tyler Glasnow RHP
Age: 20 | DOB: 8/23/93 | B/T: L/R
Height: 6-7 | Weight: 195
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
21. Lucas Giolito, RHP
Age: 19 | DOB: 7/14/94 | B/T: R/R
Height: 6-6 | Weight: 225
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
22. Raul Mondesi, SS
Age: 18 | DOB: 7/27/95 | B/T: B/R
Height: 6-1 | Weight: 165
Mondesi didn't turn 18 until the last week of July, but spent the entire year in the low Class A South Atlantic 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
23. Kevin Gausman, RHP
Age: 23 | DOB: 1/6/91 | B/T: R/R
Height: 6-3 | Weight: 190
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
24. Noah Syndergaard, RHP
Age: 21 | DOB: 8/29/92 | B/T: L/R
Height: 6-6 | Weight: 240
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
25. Braden Shipley, RHP
Age: 22 | DOB: 2/22/92 | B/T: R/R
Height: 6-3 | Weight: 190
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
26. Jorge Soler, OF
Age: 22 | DOB: 2/25/92 | B/T: R/R
Height: 6-4 | Weight: 215
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
27. Jameson Taillon, RHP
Age: 22 | DOB: 11/18/91 | B/T: R/R
Height: 6-6 | Weight: 235
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
28. Albert Almora, OF
Age: 19 | DOB: 4/16/94 | B/T: R/R
Height: 6-2 | Weight: 180
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
29. Robert Stephenson, RHP
Age: 21 | DOB: 1/24/93 | B/T: R/R
Height: 6-2 | Weight: 190
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
30. Aaron Sanchez, RHP
Age: 21 | DOB: 7/1/92 | B/T: R/R
Height: 6-4 | Weight: 190
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
31. Dylan Bundy, RHP
Age: 21 | DOB: 11/15/92 | B/T: B/R
Height: 6-1 | Weight: 195
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
32. Nick Castellanos, 3B
Age: 21 | DOB: 3/4/92 | B/T: R/R
Height: 6-4 | Weight: 210
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
33. Austin Hedges, C
Age: 21 | DOB: 8/18/92 | B/T: R/R
Height: 6-1 | Weight: 190
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
34. Andrew Heaney, LHP
Age: 22 | DOB: 6/5/91 | B/T: L/L
Height: 6-2 | Weight: 190
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
35. Austin Meadows, CF
Age: 18 | DOB: 5/3/95 | B/T: L/L
Height: 6-3 | Weight: 200
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
36. Travis d'Arnaud, C
Age: 25 | DOB: 2/10/89 | B/T: R/R
Height: 6-2 | Weight: 195
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
37. Dominic Smith, 1B
Age: 18 | DOB: 6/15/95 | B/T: L/L
Height: 6-0 | Weight: 185
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
38. Hunter Harvey, RHP
Age: 19 | DOB: 12/9/94 | B/T: R/R
Height: 6-3 | Weight: 175
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
39. Matt Wisler, RHP
Age: 21 | DOB: 9/12/92 | B/T: R/R
Height: 6-3 | Weight: 195
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
40. Lucas Sims, RHP
Age: 19 | DOB: 5/10/94 | B/T: R/R
Height: 6-2 | Weight: 195
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
41. Joc Pederson, OF
Age: 21 | DOB: 4/21/92 | B/T: L/L
Height: 6-1 | Weight: 185
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
42. Henry Owens, LHP
Age: 21 | DOB: 7/21/92 | B/T: L/L
Height: 6-6 | Weight: 205
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
43. Eduardo Rodriguez, LHP
Age: 20 | DOB: 4/7/93 | B/T: L/L
Height: 6-2 | Weight: 200
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
44. Jorge Alfaro, C
Age: 20 | DOB: 6/11/93 | B/T: R/R
Height: 6-2 | Weight: 185
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
45. Clint Frazier, OF
Age: 19 | DOB: 9/6/94 | B/T: R/R
Height: 6-1 | Weight: 190
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
46. J.P. Crawford, SS
Age: 19 | DOB: 1/11/95 | B/T: L/R
Height: 6-2 | Weight: 180
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
47. David Dahl, OF
Age: 19 | DOB: 4/1/94 | B/T: L/R
Height: 6-2 | Weight: 185
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
48. Max Fried, LHP
Age: 20 | DOB: 1/18/94 | B/T: L/L
Height: 6-4 | Weight: 185
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
49. Eddie Rosario, CF/2B
Age: 22 | DOB: 9/28/91 | B/T: L/R
Height: 6-0 | Weight: 170
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
50. Yordano Ventura, RHP
Age: 22 | DOB: 6/3/91 | B/T: R/R
Height: 5-11 | Weight: 180
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