Prospects are like scratch off lottery tickets, most are busts, some you break even with and a few will double your return. There are a few though that will pay you big bucks sending waves of excitement down your spine. Picking a winning rookie can give you that same thrill along with certain bragging rights among your league mates. Today we will each list our top 10 prospects, but we’ll do it from two different perspectives. Some of us will name the top 10 rookies to make an impact in 2014 while the others will make a list of the top 10 overall prospects in the minors; there’s something for everyone.
These aren’t the top prospects in the minors, but they have the best chance of making an impact in 2014. If you’re looking to win this year, these are the names to know.
1. SS Xander Bogaerts – He’s virtually guaranteed a spot on the ML roster. A .280 with around 15 home runs is a realistic expectation for a 21-year-old kid playing at a thin position. I don’t see a Mike Trout breakout, but there is long-term potential here. Lock him up in keeper leagues.
2. OF Billy Hamilton – He can single-handedly win the stolen base category for you each week. The reds are still shopping so there is a chance he starts the year in AAA, but a hot spring could change everything.
3. SP Taijuan Walker – He need to learn a little more control, but he’s raw with talent. Walkers curveball and changeup need some work, but it’s his 95 MPH fastball that will be his ticket. He should be given a chance to win a job this spring, but even if he starts in AAA he should be up by June.
4. OF George Springer – There’s not much left for Springer to do in the minors. He came within 3 home runs of a .300/40/40 season between AA & AAA in 2013. He should be given a chance to win a job, but if he starts in AAA it’s only a matter of time before he forces the issue.
5. OF Oscar Taveras – His ankle should be fully healed by spring, but given the current roster for the Cardinals I expect Taveras to start the year in AAA. Jon Jay isn’t the answer in center and Bourjos has zero offensive capabilities. Come July at the latest the CF job should be all his, and it could come earlier with an injury to Holliday or Craig.
6. 3B Nick Castellanos – With Cabrera moving to first the 3rd base job is wide open. I see growing pains here as he struggles to hit for average, but Nick does possess the power to hit 20 home runs. He’s not the best person on this list, but he has the clearest path to the majors
7. 2B Kolten Wong – Just like Bogaerts he’s virtually guaranteed a spot with the big club. He was a .300 hitter in the minors with double-digit power and 20+stolen base potential and could score a decent amount of runs depending on his spot in the batting order. Just like Castellanos, he’s got a clear path to the majors.
8. SS Javier Baez – Castro is blocking the way, but third base is wide open as is second. I expect a June call up if he hits like he did last year, but if it looks like he’ll have a job come spring time I would take him over everyone on this list outside the top 2.
9. SP Kyle Zimmer – A few days ago when we talked about division winners I said KC would take it, and Zimm will be part of the reason. With all the questions KC has with their rotation he could make the club out of spring training, but realistically expect a summer call up and a Michael Wacha type of impact.
10. 1B Jose Abreu – Has big power potential and is all but guaranteed a spot in the starting lineup, but like many Cuban players little is known about him. Boom or bust, he could rank anywhere on this list.
Honorable mentions go to SP Masahiro Tanaka who would take the number one spot on this list if he signs a major league contract.
1. Billy Hamilton – Looks to be the opening day CF in Cincy and has 100 SB potential if he proves he can hit even a little.
2. Oscar Taveras – I am a fan of anybody drawing comparison to Vlad Guerrero
3. George Springer – I love prospects with high HR + SB potential. None has a better combo of power and speed.
4. Taijuan Walker – Possible future ace in a pitcher’s park with an improving offensive line-up.
5. Xander Boegarts – He will be an everyday player eligible at 3B and SS. He has already proven he can hit big league pitching too.
6. Nick Castellanos – He should be the opening day 3B for the Tigers. He has the upside to be a mixed league fantasy starter this year.
7. James Paxton – He is not as big a prospect as Walker, but the September cameo was impressive.
8. Jose Abreu – Abreu could end up being a $68 million bust, but he has the power upside to be a fantasy star right away if he is able to make consistent contact.
9. Jameson Taillon – He has future ace potential and is likely to debut at some point in 2014. Taillon has the talent to hit the ground running.
10. Masahiro Tanaka – Tanaka does not appear likely to post, but I had to include him on this list anyway. If he plays in the US, he will be a front runner for rookie of the year.
1. Xander Bogaerts – Because of his ability to play 3B and SS, two positions that are often shallower than others, I have to put him first. He has the upside to be a top contributor as soon as 2014, but it’s more likely we see All-Star production in a few years.
2. Jose Abreu – His power upside is huge, and he showed good plate discipline in Cuba, though the MLB is a different animal. He is practically guaranteed a full-time role and so is the safest bet to build up counting stats for 2014.
3. Jonathan Singleton – The Astros need offensive help, and I just don’t see them keeping Singleton in the minors, where he doesn’t have anything more to prove. He’s killing in the winter league, which helps make up for his lackluster, post-suspension campaign in 2013.
4. George Springer – I’m rather worried about Springer’s swing-and-miss tendencies, otherwise he’d rate higher on this list. He does have the potential for a 30/30 year, but he’s not going to do it out of the gate like Trout.
5. Yordano Ventura – His 3-start cup of coffee was impressive, and his K/9 rate in the minors was stellar. He’s ready to hold a slot at the back-end of the rotation for the Royals.
6. Nick Castellanos – Like Abreu, he is one of the safer bets in terms of guaranteed AB, at least until we get to spring training. Has the upside for good average and power, but bear in mind it may not all show up in his first year.
7. Archie Bradley – I think he should spend another year in the minors, but there’s a good chance that if he’s stellar in the spring, Arizona could plug him into the rotation. His strikeout potential is huge, but beware the walks.
8. Oscar Taveras – His long-term upside is still great, but I honestly don’t know that St. Louis is going to use him early in the season, barring injuries to their primary OF.
9. Kolten Wong – The third player on my list with a solid chance for full-time AB. However, I worry that his MLB stats aren’t going to be all that impressive, at least early on. Maybe he’ll give a decent average and 20 SB, but I’m not sure you’ll see much to impress you in 2014.
10. Josmil Pinto – The Twins announced Mauer moving to first, and they traded Doumit. That leaves the door wide open for Pinto to secure the full-time catching gig. He’s got the least upside of the players on my list, but he should be a league-average catcher.
Some of the following players may not reach the majors this year, but in keeper & dynasty leagues these are the players you want to lock up now if you can get them.
1. Xander Boegarts – he’s got the floor, ceiling, and position to be my #1 fantasy prospect. Also, my grandmother (hi Oma) grew up in Aruba, where her mother occasionally prepared iguana stew.
2. Byron Buxton – I have been skeptical, but I have finally bought in. The stratospheric upside is too tasty to be any lower on the list.
3. Javier Baez – the infield-prospect monger in me wanted to put him #2, that’s how electric the bat is. Potential for 35+ home runs from SS or 2B is so delicious that I forget the bitter aftertaste of his current K rate.
4. Oscar Taveras – potentially a buy low guy right now. The beautiful swing’s most likely path to the show is injury, but that is not a low probability outcome given the current STL outfield of Holliday, Bourjos, and Craig.
5. Carlos Correa – if he sticks at SS, he has the potential to be what Boegarts has become sans cool name. My grandmother has nothing but indifference for Correa.
6. Addison Russell – to me, he’s Correa with a lower ceiling, but it’s not a huge difference. The cavernous ballpark that awaits him is a bit of a buzz kill too.
7. Miguel Sano – another buy low guy. In Sano’s case this is because of a potential elbow surgery. Reports of him sticking at 3B boost him ahead of Springer for me. I prefer more balanced prospects; hence his ranking behind Correa and Russell. That said, the power is dreamy.
8. George Springer – you just don’t see too many George’s anymore. You also don’t see many guys with 40/40 potential. A better fantasy prospect than real prospect, if he can make his swing-and-miss work in the bigs, then this ranking will be far too low.
9. Kris Bryant – I think there is a 0% chance he sticks at 3B. The K% also scares me, but these being fantasy rankings, the tremendous power earns Bryant this ranking.
10. Taijuan Walker – yes, I am aware that pitchers are in the minor leagues too. I just don’t trust them as they tend to be way too variable and injury prone. I also think that in fantasy, pitchers are easier to find than develop. That said, Walker is my kind of pitching prospect, big league ready with the stuff and control to match.
1. Miguel Sano – Some off-season elbow issues haven’t knocked him from my #1 spot yet. Insane power from this young 3B.
2. Xander Bogaerts – Just 21 and should be starting SS for the Red Sox in 2014. Good power, good hit tool and a very intelligent hitter. He’s been my personal favourite since 2011.
3. Byron Buxton – Buxton has it all. Speed, developing power, hit tool, defense. He’s really the closest thing to Trout in the minor leagues.
4. Oscar Taveras – Taveras had a lost year in 2013 with injuries, but there isn’t many that match his hit tool. He’ll be a good average, good power guy. Could be starting in 2014.
5. Javier Baez – Where will Baez end up is the only real question. He has great power and, while it’ll play in the OF, it will make him a top infielder if he ends up at 2B, 3B or SS. Second base would be my guess.
6. Addison Russell – A complete package from a shortstop, who may even arrive late in 2014. Power speed combo with the ability to stick at shortstop.
7. Carlos Correa – Perhaps an even better prospect than Russell, Correa is a couple of years away. He could be the one to knock Bogaerts from the #1 shortstop down the road.
8. Archie Bradley – Looking every part the ace, Bradley needs to work on his command in 2014. Plus fast ball and curve with the ability to rack up strikeouts, makes Bradley the minor league pitcher must-own.
9. Francisco Lindor – Lindor will be a major league shortstop very soon and he’s going to be an all-star. While his bat isn’t as good as his defense (WOW), he’ll still provide enough to be a top fantasy option. Great OBP, very good speed and gap power from the SS position.
10. Taijuan Walker – Walker also has the ability to become a #1 in the big leagues, and he may do it as soon as 2014. Plus fastball and a cutter, curve from this 21 year old starter make him a personal favorite.
1. Byron Buxton – There are comps out there to Matt Kemp, and Buxton certainly has the toolset. He just turned 20 and has shown more speed than power so far. As far as the Kemp comp, Buxton is actually ahead of Kemp, who was not in the minors when he was 20, and Buxton is showing more speed. He may ultimately have less power than Kemp, but a top-tier OF is well within reach.
2. Taijuan Walker – Walker is a front of the rotation pitcher, of course since he is in Seattle he will still sit behind King Felix in the rotation. He has shown elite strikeout potential in the minors. Whether he starts 2014 in the majors or not, he is certainly worth a pick (a few rounds earlier) in your draft.
3. George Springer – The UConn product is a 5-tool prospect. And all he did was nearly complete a 40-40 season last year. In light of the offseason moves made by Houston, it would appear that Springer may start 2014 in the minors. But expect the Astros to call upon him at some point.
4. Oscar Taveras – Taveras could be the main benefactor of Carlos Beltran’s departure to NYC. He should have a spot in the OF next season, though it may not be on Opening Day.
5. Miguel Sano – The Twins have one of the best farm systems in baseball, and Sano, the slugging 3B, is one of their elite prospects. He mashed 35 homers between 2 levels in 2013. Expect a season split between AA and AAA in 2014, with a possible September cup of coffee.
6. Carlos Correa – The 19-year old SS has held his own so far in the minors. He has shown a good grasp of the strikezone and a nice combination of power and speed. In fantasy, his real value is that he is a SS and even putting up 10 homers and 20 steals is great for that position. Another player that Houston can take their time developing, but Correa is a must own in keeper and dynasty leagues.
7. Archie Bradley – Bradley is built like a strong-armed ace, and I may be higher on him than some but this is exactly what I project him as. He is only in AA, and is only 21-years old, so there is still some waiting to do. 2014 will be a big year to help gauge his development (cutting down on walks will be something to watch).
8. Javier Baez – A SS who can hit 20+ homers and steal double-digit bases sounds like someone you would want to own in fantasy. A player currently blocked by a young, struggling MLB player is also one to keep an eye on. And when this player is on a team that is not built to win now but in the future, then hurry up and add him. I am sure he is already owned in your league, but Baez is the #2 SS I would target in keeper leagues.
9. Kris Bryant – A tremendous Arizona Fall League season made me put Bryant in my top 10. He led the league in HR (6), total bases (56), Slugging Percentage (0.727) OPS (1.184), and was second in doubles (8), fifth in average (0.364), 7th in RBI (17). He is the 3B of the future for the Cubs, and while the future may still be a few years away, it is time to add him to your roster.
10. Dylan Bundy – He is rehabbing from Tommy John surgery, but the recovery is going well. Obviously there could be some concern here, but before the injury he was the top pitching prospect out there (so dropping down on the list is not a surprise). The Orioles have shown a commitment to winning and Bundy will be a big piece of their success, just might be another year or so delayed down the line.
For positional prospect rankings click here.