The 2014 Fantasy Prospect List

March 26, 2014

 

 

Marvelís latest release of another in a progression of Avenger movies inspired a conversation that, among other things, induced me to explain that Marvel and DC Comics werenít the only publishers of comic books (now called graphic novels in some circles). During the course of that conversation, I did some on the fly research and ran across a website that I highly recommend even if you are not a fan of the genre. It lists some of the lamest superheroes ever put into newsprint. For example, the Red Bee, even from a concept, has to be one of the weakest ideas for a ďsuperheroĒ ever because he didnít actually posses a super power. Thatís not a deal breaker per se, as there are a number of super-power-less superheroes who possessed some sort of massive equalizer Ė super smart, super rich, etc. - that gave them equal footing with the genetic freaks who populate this universe. But this fellowís only weapon (a trained bumble bee in his belt buckle) could be completely neutralized by a single dose of Benadryl. ThatÖ is lame. Others, like the Cypher, Dogwelder and Matter Eater Lad (yes, reallyÖ read the page) showed some promise conceptually, but had a major character flaw that prevented them from reaching the big time.

 

Why am I talking about lame superheroes? Well, because this is the time of year when baseball enthusiasts produce the lionís share of their lists, and most prominent among them are the prospect lists. And just like with the superheroes, even though their creators have the best of intentions, there are always some very big misses. Sometimes, as with the Red Bee, it should be clear that the prospect wonít fly (pardon the pun). But others, like the Cypher, their lameness is only fully realized in retrospect.

 

Bearing that in mind, I must apologize for being so late with my own prospect list. Before putting ranks to names, I wanted to see as many of these players this spring in order to weed out those that had a Dogwelder-sized flaw. So while you had to wait a little longer, I hope youíll accept that this has the benefit of having the latest information as I have watched more than 100 games over the last month to compile it. If youíre doing the math, yes, that means Iíve watched roughly five games every day for the last month. Itís hard work but someone has to do it.

 

My process is similar to what Baseball Americaís used to be a decade ago: my first input is the scouting info (in this case what I have seen either in person or in game video) and then I flavor it with what the prospect has produced statistically, both in the minors and in the post-season showcases like the AFL and the Caribbean Leagues. I also incorporate the opinions of people I trust who I know have seen some of these players every day. I grade players more for tools than for stats and give an edge to players who are closer to the majors. Age is a factor but only if a player is especially young for the level or if the player is significantly older than the competition he faced. Basically this is how it works: I value upside over everything but that is mitigated by how close a player is to the majors and further subdued by any lingering questions about mechanics, maturity, etc. that might slow or prevent the player from reaching their full potential.

 

So without further guilding the lily, hereís my list of the top 50 fantasy prospects in baseball: 

 

1        Buxton, Byron

Buxton is the consensus #1 for his amazing performance and for all his tools that grade from above average to plus-plus. Power, however, is probably his weakest tool, which for an outfielder can limit how much value he will eventually have. Heís still probably a year away from the majors but the expectation should be more the next Cesar Cedeno rather than the next Barry Bonds or Eric Davis. Thatís still plenty great.

 

2        Bogaerts, Xander

The highest ranking shortstop on the prospect lists in large part because there are no questions about what he will do at the next level in the minors. Heís been there, done that. His brief exposure in September and October proved heís ready for the show this year. That said, I donít think he will stick at shortstop long term. He doesnít have a quick move laterally and his range is only average. But as long as Middlebrooks hits enough to stay at third, Bogaerts will be the Red Soxí shortstop.

 

3        Tavares, Oscar    

Like Buxton, heís an impressive collection of talent but power is only above average. Think a smaller version of Vladimir Guerrero but with 25-homer power at his peak rather than 40. I didnít get to see him this spring because he was injured (again). His health history is beginning to look a little bit like Jason Heywardís. I donít want to call him injury-prone because, like Heyward, none of his injuries have been recurrent, but they do seem to find him with some frequency.

 

4        Walker, Taijuan

Walker has posted impressive performances at all levels of the minors despite being young for each level and is still relatively new to pitching (he was known primarily for his basketball skills in high school). Some have compared him to a young Doc Gooden without the off the field excesses but thatís probably too high a standard. However, the fastball and athletic ability are comparable. Some shoulder soreness this spring has muted my enthusiasm because that injury, more than any other, is hardest to fix medically for a pitcher if it turns out serious. If all is well physically, heíll be among the best rookie pitchers this year.

 

5        Bundy, Dylan

I have no idea why Bundy is so far down in so many prospect lists. Heís only coming back from Tommy John surgery. Iíd understand the trepidation if it was a shoulder problem he was coming back from, but this procedure is closing in on 100% success rate with no downside. He was top 3 on everyone elseís list last year. Still deserves top 5.

 

6        Baez, Javier

Of the shortstop prospects whoíve yet to reach the majors, he might be the most intriguing. I placed him here because his power is hard to ignore and despite the less than ideal command of the strike zone thereís still a decent chance he makes enough contact to make that power play. He could become JJ Hardy but with 40-homer power. He loves to swing at the first pitch and if itís over the plate heíll likely put the bat on the ball. That can be a good thing if itís a good pitch to hit; perhaps not so good if itís a good pitcherís pitch. An intriguing storyline henceforth will be whether or not the Cubs try to teach him to be a more patient hitter like they did with Starling Castro, or they accept him for the hitter he is.

 

7        Russell, Addison

Probably the best all-around package of any of the shortstop prospects. He doesnít have the upper end power of Baez or the speed of Francisco Lindor but he should develop into a 20-homer/20-steal hitter with an on base around .370. He and Lindor are the most likely of this yearís crop to remain at shortstop for the better part of their careers. The Aís gave him a long look this spring and he didnít look overmatched.

 

8        Bradley, Archie

Bradley is the first of three straight pitching prospects on this list who routinely touch 100 mph with their fastballs. I have him ranked the highest because heís closest to the majors but if Iím ranking them in terms of upside I put him third of the three. As impressive as heís been, walks are still a significant issue and that wonít play very well in the majors. Just ask Trevor Bauer. On the plus side, when he does miss the strike zone, he tends to miss low or to the arm side so itís less likely that his mistakes will get tomahawked into the seats.

 

9        Giolito, Lucas

By this time next year heíll challenge Buxton as the best prospect in baseball. He has the best control of the #8-10 on this list and two of his pitches (his fastball and 12-6 curve) grade as 80s on the scouting scale and a third (his change) that has potential to be a 60+. If competitiveness, composure on the mound and work ethic were graded by scouts, by all accounts heíd rate at least a 60+ on those, too. He was regarded by some scouts as the best high-school right-hander in draft history and before his elbow required surgery was rumored to become the first high school right-hander ever chosen #1 overall. As baseball man extraordinaire John Hart might say, ďThis is what they look like.Ē

 

10      Gray, Jonathan

Gray is a hulking presence and his repertoire fits his size. His fastball has hit as high as 102 mph and his slider has fantastic break, a la K Rodís. His motion is almost non-chalant and he pours pitches into the strike zone without fear, as if he were facing little leaguers. Iím tempted to rank him higher but his final destination will be Coors Field, which has a tendency to diminish even great pitching talents. Also of concern, Tulowitzki aside, the Rockies are a terrible defensive team. That said, he was unfazed by pitching in major league camp this spring, less than a year removed from being drafted. He wonít spend much time in the minors and should be a factor immediately once he reaches the show.

 

11      Correa, Carlos

I know heís a favorite of the Clubhouse Confidential crowd but heís still pretty far away from the majors, he doesnít run particularly well and much of his statistical performance last year was driven by a Balls in Play Average near .400. Letís see him do it at a higher level before we anoint him as the next ARod. And before this hype gets any crazier, at Correaís current age Alex Rodriguez was already in AAA and posting an OPS nearly 80 points higher than Correa did in low A last year. So letís end that comparison permanently right now.

 

I know itís blasphemy to undervalue the Astrosí prospects because the Astros are so smart for depending on advanced metrics to divine their prospect choices, but if I recall correctly the same people who are currently crowing about how great Houston will be in two or three years are the same ones who said ten years ago that the Oakland Aís would dominate baseball for the foreseeable future, and five years ago that the Seattle Mariners would be winning World Series routinely by now, and for the very same reasons. Howís that working out? Hey, guess whatÖ baseball is hard. Donít get me wrong Ė I admire what the Astros are trying because they are fielding a historically terrible team and they are courageous enough to try something new. My umbrage is with those who think that itís 100% certain to succeed and that what everyone else is doing Ė and has been doing for more than a century - is quaint.

 

12      Sano, Miguel

When it comes to raw power, Sano and Joey Gallo are about the only ones on this yearís list who Iíd grade as having 80 or near 80 power. Sano predicted a 45-homer season this year but that will be put on hold for a while after he suffered an elbow injury that required ligament surgery. Itís not far-fetched to suggest that heíll be in the top 5 on next yearís prospect lists.

 

13      Polanco, Gregory

Polanco had not posted overly impressive stats in his career until the Caribbean Series this winter, where he posted a .922 OPS (10 doubles and 5 homers) and stole 7 bases in just 166 at bats. His power numbers should improve when he fills out a large frame (6í4Ē, 220 lbs) as he matures. The Pirates outfield in a year or two will be the most athletic in baseball, with Andrew McCutcheon, Starling Marte and this guy.

 

14      Bryant, Kris

Bryant is another hitter with top of the scale power - just a tick below Sano and Gallo. He is still capable of a 40-homer season once he gets acclimated to the majors and will probably end up becoming a better overall hitter than the other two. I had some questions about how much contact he would make against upper echelon pitching but he answered them resolutely with his performance in the Arizona Fall League. He wonít win any batting titles but I assume heíll be manning third base on the North Side of Chicago sometime during the 2015 season if not before.

 

15      Meyer, Alex

I have Meyer higher on my list than anyone, but the combination of a 6í 9Ē pitcher throwing in the mid-to-upper 90s on a downhill plane is just too much to pass on. Yes, there are concerns about consistency with his mechanics due to his height, but I saw enough in Arizona to satisfy any concerns I had. Iíve been following his career ever since the Red Sox drafted him out of high school and that has always been the only significant knock against him: can he maintain his mechanics? And at every level heís met that challenge. In his final year at University of Kentucky he was as dominating as any pitcher in college baseball and he has that kind of ceiling once he settles in the majors. I donít have any concerns about the Twins rushing him.

 

16      Tanaka, Masahiro

Thereís no question he posted some very impressive numbers last year in Japan, but I think people get caught up in the 24-0 won/loss record and tend to glaze over the other numbers. They were good, but not as good as some of the things he had done previously. In fact, his strikeout rate is on a three-year decline. I donít think Iím being controversial by suggesting he does not have the same upside as Yu Darvish. I imagine heíll be successful in New York but I canít help but think about Hideki Irabu and how he fared. My impression is that Tanaka has a far better handle on the media attention than Irabu did so I doubt there will be an epic meltdown, and truth be told, Irabu was pretty decent for two years. I suspect Tanaka will be good, but probably not Cy Young good.

 

Stuff-wise, heís got a fairly straight 94-mph fastball with a great split-finger variation, which he compliments with 3-5 average breaking pitches. On the mound his biggest obstacles will likely be the different ball used by the majors and pitching on shorter rest than heís used to. The latter wonít be a factor early on but by later in the season it could be significant.

 

17      Castellanos, Nick

So this is the guy who is supposed to replace Miguel Cabrera at third. Well, not exactly because Cabrera is just moving to his more natural position at first base. But there are some similarities. Like Cabrera, Castellanos has a knack for making solid contact with the pitches he swings at and he feels comfortable going with the pitch and using all fields. He doesnít possess nearly the power Cabrera does (and never will) but should develop into a solid major league hitter with above average power.

 

18      Syndergaard, Noah

The third of the Mets next trio of young guns, Syndergaard, at least stuff-wise, has the lowest ceiling between he, Matt Harvey and Zack Wheeler. But command-wise, he has the edge and he features four pitches that grade average or above. What I saw this spring suggested he is close but not quite ready for primetime.

 

19      Gausman, Kevin

Right off the bat Iíll concede that I am favorably biased toward Gausman because he went to LSU. The facts of the matter, however, are that he has a very good fastball, a plus change-up and a good feel for pitching. His troubles have been tied to the lack of a consistent breaking pitch and getting too much of the plate with his offerings. His slider shows promise but heíll need to command it to realize his full potential as a top of the rotation workhorse.

 

20      Sanchez, Aaron

Thereís a lot of elbow movement in Sanchezí delivery but itís quick and compact and he delivers a mid-90s fastball with little effort. Heís young for the level of competition heís been facing but control issues will determine how quickly he continues his ascent. Minor injuries have prevented him from getting a lot of innings under his belt so maybe the control will come quickly with a full season of repetitions. If thereís any plus to his current wildness is that he tends to miss low so he doesnít give up many homers on mistakes.

 

21      Taillon, James

Like many of this yearís top pitching prospects, Taillon is armed with a mid-90s fastball. He also throws a big breaking curve but there is a slight difference in arm speed when he throws it. That will play in the minors but major league hitters will pick up on such visual cues very quickly. Still, he has good control and the kind of frame scouts like in hard-throwing starters.

 

22      Glasnow, Tyler

Iíll have to admit that it is hard for me to get past his ridiculous strikeout rate: 13.26 Ks/9 last year in A-ball. For a 19-year old, thatís quite noteworthy. His walk rate was also high (4.93 per 9) but Iím not as alarmed by this as many evaluators. Itís something to keep an eye on but nothing to dismiss him as a top prospect. Tall guys (6í7Ē) who throw hard (consistently in the mid-high 90s) often have trouble finding the zone early in their careers. If heís still walking five guys an outing when heís in Triple-A then thereís reason to be concerned. His curve has all the makings of a plus pitch and if he can find consistency with his change, the Pirates will have their own trio of young starters that compare with any in baseball.

 

23      Crick, Kyle

Although heís drawn comparisons to Matt Cain and Kurt Ainsworth, I think a more appropriate comparison is to another hard-throwing righty who also had crazy movement on his fastball: Darren Dreifort. Crick is an incredibly compelling arm not only because of the movement and velocity of his fastball, but because he can maintain his plus velocity deep into games. Like Glasnow, his breaking pitches and control need refinement but if he finds a way to put them all in the strike zone he could produce Nintendo-like strikeout numbers.

 

24      Lindor, Fransisco

Lots of prospect lists have Lindor higher in their rankings largely due to his on base and defense. Iím giving him the benefit of the doubt by putting him here because he has decent speed albeit not blazing. But I have serious reservations about his almost complete lack of power. His lifetime slugging percentage in the minors is .377. Itís hard to stay in the majors with that kind of liability at the plate. Many of the notables who have done it Ė Omar Vizquel, Ozzie Smith, Tony Fernandez, Dave Concepcion, Bert Campaneris Ė like Lindor featured spectacular glovework. Heíll need to keep the speed if heís going to be a net positive on a fantasy roster.

 

25      Ventura, Yordano

Let me start with the obvious: ďAceĒ Ventura throws his fastball a billion miles per hour. Actually, thatís a bit of an exaggeration because it only looks like itís traveling faster than the speed of light. Itís actually only traveling about 100 mph (topping out at 102). That said, he only became a really fine prospect when he finally tuned up a very nice curve ball to complement it, and it is of the big bender 12-6 variety.His change is still rudimentary but his first two pitches are good enough to get him twice through a line-up. His value as a starter depends on a) how quickly and thoroughly he refines his change-up and b) his endurance because heís not a very big guy so that may limit the number of innings he can pitch per outing. I wonít do him or Pedro Martinez a disservice by comparing the two but the latter was able to go deep in games his whole career so the size issue is clearly not a deal-breaker.

 

26      Appel, Mark

Another Astros guy. Two years ago he was being hailed as the next Verlander, with a fastball that touched 100. Last year, he was becoming more of a pitcher than a thrower with a fastball that touched 96. I imagine those numbers were tinged with a bit of scout enthusiasm and by the time Appel reaches the majors heíll be a solid #2 with a fastball that is consistently 92-93 that touches 94. Heíll have to show improved velocity to regain that #1 upside.

 

27      Zimmer, Kyle

Zimmer is usually listed higher on most prospect lists and for good reason: heís got three above average pitches that he commands well and he has good pitching instincts, knowing when to add or subtract to throw off the hitterís timing. The only reason I have him this low is that heís already gone through a bout of tight shoulder and had bone chips removed within the last year and a half. The talent is there for an ace but I have some doubts about his durability. The name that sprang to my mind as a comp was Bret Saberhagen, who was brilliant when he was healthy but over a 17-year major league career only had four such seasons.

 

28      Butler, Eddie

The ĎRobiní to Jonathan Grayís ĎBatmaní, this half of the dynamic duo has plenty of weapons in his utility belt: three plus pitches and a fourth that grades above average. Butlerís fastball has both very good velocity and life which should play well in Colorado. He finished 2013 in Double-A so he should reach Denver sometime this season.†††††

 

29      Heaney, Andrew

With his easy delivery, Heaney looks like heís playing catch when heís on the mound. Itís surprising to both hitters and observers that heís hitting 93-96 mph when the fastball crosses the plate. Generally he has better control when he pitches in the low 90s but heís been known to run it up as high as 97. He doesnít have any real weaknesses Ė solid change with a plus slider - so he could very well be delivering the goods in the majors this season, perhaps even as soon as the season opener depending on how he looks this spring. He doesnít have as much upside as some of the higher names on this list but his floor is relatively high.

 

30      d'Arnaud, Travis

The next in what has become a fairly long line of ďgreat-hittingĒ catchers who are frequently compared to Mike Piazza and Joe Mauer. Letís start with the obvious: heís not one of those guys. That said, he could easily become the next Buster Posey or Matt Wieters. Thatís still very good. Just not Hall of Fame good. For fantasy purposes his defense is ahead of his offense so the next couple of years will probably be underwhelming. But when he finally gets it, heíll be an All-Star in both real and fantasy baseball.

 

31      Hamilton, Billy

He has Hall of Fame speed and base-running instincts but will he hit enough to show it? He didnít last year in Triple-A; he has this spring. Perhaps the most important recent development has been his ability to draw walks. He wonít have to hit better than .260 to be an effective lead-off man if he can draw walks in 7-8% of his plate appearances. That might seem low from an on base percentage perspective but he is so good at stealing bases that heíll score more runs with an on base of .320 than most players would if they had an on base of .370. How good is he? The truly great basestealers like Rickey Henderson have everything measured perfectly from their jump to their slide. Henderson went from first to second in 11 steps (roughly 3.07 seconds); Hamilton gets there in 10. Consider that in 13 games last year, used primarily as a pinch runner, he stole 13 bases. Also consider this: with a good slide step, a pitcher can deliver the ball to home plate in 1.1 Ė 1.2 seconds. An average delivery takes about 1.3 seconds. A very good throwing catcher can deliver the ball from home to second in 1.8 seconds and major league average is about 2.0 seconds. Hamilton averages between 2.98 Ė 3.03 seconds from first to second (yes, faster than the greatest base stealer of all time). So basically unless the pitcher and catcher are both great at preventing steals, he can not be stopped.

 

32      Franco, Maikel

Franco posted some impressive stats last year but Iím not confident heíll produce those at the next level without some significant adjustments. He has a bit of a loop in his swing which major league pitchers will eventually exploit. Theyíll bust him inside with fastballs until he smoothes out that bit of flair. That said, his physical tools Ė bat speed, raw power, ability to barrel the ball Ė make him a very intriguing talent. His defense is better than advertised so he could make his debut very quickly if Cody Asche doesnít get out to a hot start.

 

33    Urias, Julio

In the Little League World Series, foreign teams have often been accused of using players who are older than the 13-year old age limit. That trend stopped when Danny Almonte, a kid from US team, was found in violation. The reason I bring this up is that Julio Urias is listed as being 17-years old. To look at him, one might surmise that he still qualifies to pitch in Williamsport. However, his results in low-A speak otherwise. How much velocity heíll add as he matures remains a subject of speculation but since his fastball already ranges from 91-95 he wonít need to add any to be successful. His curve and change are still works in progress but itís conceivable he could reach the majors before turning 19.

 

34      Pederson, Joc

Pederson has good all-around tools and has surprising power for someone with his build. Comparisons to Curtis Granderson are probably optimistic but I can see his peak similar to what Granderson did when he was in Detroit. Shin-Soo Choo is another player with whom he matches up statistically. He has good power to all fields and a nice easy swing that allows him to barrel just about any offering. His power is unlikely to translate into more than 20-25 homers per year but with his other tools he should develop into an All-Star.

 

35      Abreu, Jose

Iím not sure what to make out of Abreu since Iíve only seen him for a few at bats during the World Baseball Classic. His swing looked a lot like that of Yoenis Cespedes and his bat speed wasnít very impressive. I imagine his plate discipline will be similar as well, which adds up to an everyday player for a few years but not the perennial All-Star heís being made out to be. Itís a great show when he makes solid contact because the ball travels a long way so itíll be interesting to see how well he handles pitches that challenge his bat speed.

 

36      Springer, George

The next Chris Heisey? Yes, his tools are exciting but he strikes out once every three at bats now. How many .300 hitters in history have struck out 200 times in a season? The answer might surprise you unless you thought the answer was zero. Bobby Bonds came close once but he was two years younger than Springer when he made his major league debut and finished his career as a .268 hitter. Expecting Springer to achieve that level or surpass it is overly optimistic. Also optimistic is any expectation that his BABIP will remain in the neighborhood of .380. So what happens when his strikeout rate goes up, his walk rate goes down Ė which they most certainly will against major league pitching Ė and his BABIP drops fifty points? WellÖ Chris Heisey. Thatís still not bad; itís still a borderline major league regular. But visions of perennial 40/40/.300 seasons are just wishful thinking. His advocates will point to the walks heís drawn this spring as a sign heís improving quickly, but four of his eight walks came in a single game at the beginning of March and we have no way of knowing if the other walks he drew were due to his knowledge of the strike zone or from the usual rust the pitchers were shaking off during spring training. What he hasnít addressed is his tendency to hit under the ball and the somewhat large holes in his swing. Still not sold on the superstar hype.

 

37      Mondesi, Raul

Son of former toolsy Dodger outfielder Raul Mondesi, the younger plays a similar game as the elder, displaying both power and speed albeit less power and more speed. Likewise on defense, he lacks his fatherís cannon arm but has the edge in range and instincts. Heís been one of the youngest players at each level and projects to be pushing for a major league job by 2016.

 

38      Seager, Corey

Brother of Marinerís third baseman Kyle Seager, Corey is a shortstop now but a move to third is probably in the offing due to his size and range. He has a little better feel and approach at the plate so heíll likely hit for better average but the power will be similar.

 

39      Stephenson, Robert

Thereís no question that Stephenson features plus velocity on his fastball. But I question how well it will play at the major league level. From what Iíve seen, everything he throws is up in the zone. Thatís a two edged-sword. On the plus side, a fastball chest-high will more often than not yield a swinging strike if the batter offers. On the minus side, pitches up in the zone are the easiest to see and if a fastball is only belt-high and not chest-high, it tends to travel a long distance in the opposite direction. Major league hitters learn pitchers very quickly so Stephenson will need to get comfortable pitching down in the zone more so that they canít look for belt-high offerings.

 

40      Odor, Roughned

Many evaluators rank Odor as the best prospect in the Rangers system but I think much of that is because he is the most likely to become a major league regular. Other prospects in the Texas sytem have much higher ceilings but Odorís swing and approach make it almost certain heíll be able to handle all types of major league pitching. Despite the illusion of potentially becoming a 30/30 infielder, Odor has only average power and footspeed. His major league numbers will far more likely resemble those of Placido Polanco than Brandon Phillips.

 

41      Owens, Henry

Owens is a tall lefty who has posted crazy strikeout numbers so far, but his stuff really doesnít project to be so dominant in the majors. Despite his 6í7Ē height, heís much more Tom Glavine than Randy Johnson. He hides the ball well and supplements that with an excellent change-up but still struggles with command. The result is career rates of 11.35 Ks per 9 innings, accompanied by a walk rate of 4.37 per 9. Command will key how quickly he becomes a regular in a major league rotation but his ceiling is probably limited to something along the lines of Chris Capuano.

 

42      Stewart, Kohl

The fourth of the Twins upper level prospects, Stewart has all the tools to become a front of the rotation starter. While his fastball lacks the velocity of most of the pitchers on this list, he features four pitches that already grade as average or better and the only thing they lack is consistency to all become above average offerings. Health is his biggest obstacle: he has type 1 diabetes and more immediately, was shut down at the end of the 2013 season with shoulder soreness. Heís still only 19 so there is no urgency to rush him.

 

43      Edwards, CJ

In a Cubís system that is rife with excellent hitting prospects , Edwards is pretty much the only ray of light on the pitching side. Edwards stuff is not eye-popping but both his fastball, curve and slider all grade above average. He has a change-up in his repertoire as well but has used it only sparingly. What makes him intriguing is his make-up and instincts. He has a knack for making good pitches when he needs to. The proof is that he has allowed only one home run over two full seasons of professional ball covering 183 innings and his career minor league ERA is 1.72.

 

44      Cole, AJ

I used to think that he had an upside similar to Jarrod Parker. After watching him this spring I probably should revise that downward a little. He doesnít pitch in the upper-to-mid-90s anymore, instead changing speeds on his fastball from 88-94. His breaking ball has looked good this spring and his change-up is occasionally very good. His upside is probably closer to a solid #2 starter. I donít see any of the Nationalís current 5th starter options providing much of an obstacle once heís ready.

 

45††††† Austin Meadows

With all the hype about the Pirates farm system focused on superb young talents like Gerrit Cole, Jameson Taillon, Gregory Polanco and Tyler Glasnow, Meadows often gets lost in the shuffle because his tools arenít quite as loud. However, they are still plenty good, with good plate discipline, an easy swing with emerging power and surprising speed. As an 18-year old in Rookie ball and low-A he compiled a .316/.424/.554 slashline. Itís very easy to project him either among the top 10 next year or closely approaching it.

 

46      Frazier, Clint

When Frazier was a shortstop, he rivaled Javier Baez for most power for the position. However, with Francisco Lindor in their system, the Indians decided he could progress faster with a move to center field. Heís still fairly aggressive at the plate and is susceptible to swing and miss at breaking pitches already, despite their lack of quality in the low minors. How fast he makes the necessary adjustments will determine how quickly he climbs the ladder.

 

47   †† Ervin, Philip

Injuries have been Ervinís biggest issue since high school but when healthy his tools grade 60s across the board. There are no real weaknesses in his game on offense or defense, or from a tools perspective or a sabermetric one. To wit, he has yet to produce lower than a .916 OPS or an on base lower than .406 at any level, but likewise hasnít topped 260 at bats in any season either. He possesses enough speed and instincts to play any outfield position and his arm would rate as one of the better ones if he ends up in right field.

 

48      Bauer, Trevor

Although this ranking might not indicate it, I still believe in Bauer although not quite as much as before. Back problems can be partially blamed for his disastrous 2013, but his biggest obstacle to becoming a top-of-the-rotation starter is still a lack of maturity. Iím not talking about him throwing tantrums if he doesnít get a call (although there are still some instances of him huffing around the mound when that happens). No, Iím more concerned with him over-thinking each situation. Sometimes it is what it is and he just needs to let it go and make a good pitch rather than a perfect one. He still defaults to strikeout mode like he did at UCLA whenever he gets in trouble, pitching up in the zone instead of making good pitches down in the zone that might net him either a strikeout or a double play grounder. There is nothing wrong with his stuff: he was hitting 98 mph this spring with his fastball and his breaking stuff is very good. And he seems to be immune to fatigue so thereís potential here to be a 220+ inning workhorse. His success and upside in the majors are entirely dependent on him gaining control of the mental aspects of the game. Heís certainly smart enough to make that adjustment and realize his enormous potential but until he does heíll be unrosterable for fantasy purposes.

 

49††††† Almora, Albert

Almora has a nice easy swing and a good sense of the strikezone. He doesnít panic when he gets down in the count and can get around on good inside pitches. He would be higher on this list if any of his tools graded higher than above average. His upside is a solid major league regular and heíll become a much better real baseball player than a fantasy one.

 

50   †† Gallo, Joey

It might seem odd to find Joey Gallo as the 50th best prospect in baseball, at least in terms of actually becoming a major leaguer. I would rate his chances of making the majors as fairly low given current inability to make consistent contactÖ so far. Currently he struggles to identify pitches on the outer half and his swing doesnít spend much time in the strike zone. However, heís young enough to tinker with his mechanics and to learn how to lay off pitches he canít handle. If he gets this, watch out; his power is off the scale. In his first professional season, his walk rate improved in August and September and his strikeout rate decreased without any drop in home run rate.Oh, and he hit .321 with an on base of .415 over that span. He finished the season with 40 homers (in only 411 at bats) despite missing much of July with a groin injury. Defensively he has the arm to stick at third but his slow feet point to his ultimate position becoming either first base or, more likely, DH.

 

 

Thatís all I have. If you didnít see a player you liked, itís not because I donít like him. Well, not necessarily anyway. Itís just that he didnít make my top 50. But he was definitely in my top 100. Good luck in 2014 and beyond!