Top Baseball Prospects for 2014
Now updated for 2014's Top Prospects
Scouting Book's Top Prospects list is a Combined List, a calculated summary of the overall valuations of the entire prospect universe.
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If anyone in baseball was unaware of Japanese phenom Masahiro Tanaka last year, the 24-0 record he posted in 27 starts for NPL's Rakuten Golden Eagles pretty much erased the last shreds of his anonymity. That record, while it certainly came with a little luck, wasn't undeserved: Takana's 1.27 ERA and 0.94 WHIP also led the league. He'll spend the entire 2014 season as a 25 year old, and while most scouts don't see quite the same dazzling array of weaponry, comparing young Tanaka to the 27-year old Yu Darvish are not without merit.
Ma's fastball is in the low-90's range with not much movement, though his superior command makes it effective enough, especially when used to set up two plus breaking balls: a split-fingered variant that generates grounders, and a wipeout slider that produces a great many swings and misses. (Tanaka averaged eight and a half strikeouts per innings in Japan, more or less, for his entire pro career.) His curve is more of a show-me offering, and he uses it primarily as a changeup to keep hitters from timing his delivery too finely. He may have adjustment periods in MLB, and that fastball almost certainly will be hammered a few times if he leans on it too hard, but other than that he looks like the real deal from here, and he should be able to hold his own against pretty much any pro lineup right now.
More Scouting Book Info on Masahiro Tanaka
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There aren't a lot of Arubans around MLB, but the tiny island's reputation should be well-represented by Red Sox infield prospect Xander 'Crews' Bogaerts. A player of exceptional baseball intelligence, the man from San Nicolas has a graceful, quick swing with a little natural loft that should serve him well once his body fills out a bit more. His contact is solid and strong to all fields, and he's an above-average baserunner to boot. His weaknesses to date are iffy strike zone judgement (he's young) and some awkwardness in the field, especially with his footwork (he's young). There's really not anything to worry about here, though, other than whether he'll settle at short, second or third for the long-haul. No matter where he plays, though, it's safe to pre-order your Bogaerts jersey, as long as you remember to triple-check the spelling.
More Scouting Book Info on Xander Bogaerts
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A big Dominican outfielder with an even bigger left-handed bat, Cardinal slugger Oscar Taveras was promoted to AA ball in 2012 and promptly spanked it to the tune of .321/.380/.572. Testing AAA waters in 2013, he spanked the ball almost as well, with a .306/.341/.462 slash line and five homers in six weeks of work. He's big-league ready right now, so as soon as the Cardinals elect to give him a chance, he'll be making some highlight reels. While there's an outside chance he could land a spring job, it's safer to look for him in June.
More Scouting Book Info on Oscar Taveras
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With the first pick of the 2012 Draft, Houston showed a commitment to a strong future with the surprise selection of teenage phenom Carlos Correa, a natural shortstop who impressed scouts with a superior work ethic and five solid tools. His power potential is especially intriguing for a player who looks well-suited to remain at short, though he seems aware of this: his swing gets a little long and lofty at times when he reaches for the seats. Some good coaching along with the aforementioned work ethic should fix this, of course, and as he blossoms, he'll be a cornerstone of a future Astros lineup, just what the team needs to build a competitive team in the tough AL West.
More Scouting Book Info on Carlos Correa
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The classic all-promise righthander, Arizona's Archie Bradley is a potentially outstanding pitcher who's only a changeup short of a major league career very soon. Of course, that's the pitching equivalent of a hitter who can handle everything except a curve ball, so this youngster's future will depend mighty heavily on how many MPH he can
subtract when called upon to do so. If he stumbles, his big fastball and plus curve should still serve his team well in relief, but we won't know for another year or two which road he'll be taking from South Bend to Mobile.
More Scouting Book Info on Archie Bradley
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He's clearly no shortstop anymore, as Scouting Book readers knew to expect, but that doesn't stop Miguel Sano from stepping into the number one prospect room in Minnesota. The biggest Latin American signing of 2009, Sano was a coup of sorts for the small market Minnesota Twins. A coveted athlete pursued by all the usual big-market teams, it was Minnesota's relentless (one might say 'piranha-like') tenacity that finally landed the youngster. While his bat is enticing, the rest of his game is more typical of a still-teenager: sloppy and inconsistent. He'll need to become a better fielder and baserunner, at the very least, before he's treated with proper respect in the big
More Scouting Book Info on Miguel Sano
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A nominal shortstop, Puerto Rican mini-Cub Javier Baez also looks just fine at second and third, and has one of the highest overall upsides of any infield prospect in baseball. His ultimate position will probably come down to some mix of organizational need and how his body develops.
A solid all-around athlete, there's no reason to yet believe he won't stick at shortstop, thanks to a strong arm, soft hands and good feet. He hasn't yet shown the power for a corner, though, so his best route to the majors is definitely the middle of the diamond. He's not very widely known yet, but wait another year and Cubs fans will be clamoring for a Castro-Baez (or perhaps Baez-Castro) infield combination. They should sample one or the other sometime in 2014.
More Scouting Book Info on Javier Baez
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The Mariners' first round pick in 2010, righthander Taijuan Walker looks like a number one starter on almost any MLB team. On the Mariners, that probably makes him a number three, or maybe two-and-a-half. (This team's pitching depth in the minors is just plain sick.
Walker's progress took leaps and bounds forward after a step back in 2012, ending with a September in Safeco in which he looked more than capable of holding his own. Walker works mainly with a 94mph darting fastball that has great late movement, and when he mixes in a sometimes-effective straight change at 82mph, the fastball is nearly unhittable. His breaking pitch is a slurvy curve that isn't yet ready for regular use, but he'll have time to develop. Walker has higher upside (and higher risk) than either Hultzen or Paxton, but he's also a lot younger, and will probably take longer to realize his full potential. Still, there's not much left for him to learn, which means he stands a very good chance of breaking camp in the big leagues in 2014.
More Scouting Book Info on Taijuan Walker
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A lithe, athletic outfielder with enough speed to cover big terrain, Pirate outfield prospect Gregory Polanco really took a step into national attention in 2012, showing off a .325/.389/.516 slash line during his first taste of A-ball, a line that included 25 doubles and 15 homers. In 2013, he stepped up all aspects of his game, and while the raw numbers might not look as impressive, those are numbers accrued while rising through three levels of play all in one summer.
At the plate, Polanco is still a bit of a raw swinger, but he makes enough contact to get away with it most of the time, and his natural ability helps him put balls in play that others might foul off or miss altogether. As his skills improve, his talent could propel him into the upper tier of young hitters. His defense is very sloppy but should come along with the rest of his game, with good raw speed that should help him cover mistakes in the mean time. His arm is not special, but should be enough to handle a corner outfield assignment.
More Scouting Book Info on Gregory Polanco
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Seen by many as the best pitching prospect in the 2013 draft class, Oklahoma's Jonathan Gray is a towering righthander with high-90's heat that breaks 100mph from time to time. More often, he throws it at 94 or 95 with good late movement that busts righthanded hitters. His real showcase pitch, though, is the hard slurvy slider that comes in near 90mph but drops dramatically off and away, making even good hitters look like weak-kneed noodle-slappers. If Gray has a weakness, it's his not-there-at-all changeup, a pitch he may need if he's going to handle lefthanded hitters with as much skill as he deals with righties. Regardless, he's a top flight prospect who has the stuff and maturity to handle pitching, even at Coors Field.
More Scouting Book Info on Jonathan Gray
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A high-school shortstop from Puerto Rico with a live bat and a great batting eye from both sides of the plate, Cleveland's Franky Lindor is a young and talented all-around player who shows signs of all five major league tools. His glove is pretty shiny, and his baserunning smarts and instincts are already several years ahead of his age bracket. As he works his way through several hundred thousand practice swings in the next three or four years, we'll find out if that bat can live up to early reports and carry his future into MLB.
More Scouting Book Info on Francisco Lindor
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A mature Cuban first baseman, slugger Jose Dariel Abreu (Correa) was the Cuban League's MVP in 2010-2011, a season in which he hit 33 home runs in 66 gams, a Cuban League record. His .453/.597/.986 line is also the best in recorded history. After defecting from Cuba in late 2013, he signed a six-year major league contract with the White Sox. He's expected to earn playing time this season, and while he may strike out a lot, his game-changing power will play in any league.
More Scouting Book Info on Jose Abreu
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A Florida prep infielder with a plus power bat and better than average speed, shortstop Addison Russell will probably grow out of the position very soon, but he'll look quite good as a third baseman in Oakland, too, especially if the ball club succeeds in securing an actual, like, baseball park in which to play. He's probably the best hitting prospect in the Oakland system, and could get a chance in the Bigs earlier than expected, especially if the precocious A's keep on winning sooner than the schedule suggested.
More Scouting Book Info on Addison Russell
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Seen by many as the best pure hitter in the 2013 draft class, San Diego's Kris Bryant is a polished college prospect who looks like a quality middle of the order bat. In Chicago, he'll get a long look at third base, due to positional needs, but he may still end up at first base, despite his good arm. That might dim his prospect star a little, and it gives bears some easy ammunition, but long-term it really shouldn't matter: his bat is good enough for any position, and he looks to be a solid piece in the Cubs' rebuilding effort.
More Scouting Book Info on Kris Bryant
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The younger of Baltimore's Bouncing Baby Bundies, the growly-looking Dylan is a righthander with ace upside, but he remains relatively untested against pro hitters, and under professional pressure. His ungodly 0.25 ERA and 158 strikeouts in 71 innings as a high school senior earned him honors as the Gatorade National Baseball Player of the Year, BA's High School Player of the Year Award and USA Today's National Player of the Year. That said, he's still what we in the business like to call
a high school pitching prospect, which is a term of art meant to indicate that this category of gamble is among the riskier bets in baseball. His fastball/cutter combination is a genuine plus combo, and he's been improving his command and control while working on improving his changeup in the minors. He'll need that to succeed. The Baltimore organization has done nothing in the last few years to suggest they're not one of the very best incubators for pitching talent, so overall, we're believers.
More Scouting Book Info on Dylan Bundy
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A defensive star in the making, outfielder George Springer brings great range, a good glove and a powerful arm to the park. He'd be patrolling spacious centerfield in Minute Maid Park already, if only his bat could catch up to the rest of his all-around game. After scuffling in 2012, Springer started lighting up scoreboards last season, stroking 37 homers and a very impressive .303/.411/.600 line a season evenly split between AA and AAA.
While the Astros may try to hold him back for cost-management reasons, Springer is 24 this spring, which means his time is almost certainly right now.
More Scouting Book Info on George Springer
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Yes, he sounds like a character from snowy Skyrim, but Texan Noah Syndergaard is more of a dusty cowpoke than uppity Jarl. The Blue Jays thought highly enough of him to say 'no' to the Oakland A's when the Athletics were shopping Gio Gonzalez around in 2011, but they caved in 2012 when the Mets dangled Cy Young winner RA Dickey, making Noah one of the very top Mets pitching prospects today.
The move to New York means he's no longer a sleeper candidate, and now that he's an NL talent, he's even more appealing. When this imposing righthander arrives, it'll be thanks to the plus command he shows with his decent 94mph fastball and near-plus curve. Of course, as with any young pitcher, it'll be the quality of his developing change that will determine whether he's an ace or a middle-of-the-pack starter a year or two from now. He's very close to ready.
More Scouting Book Info on Noah Syndergaard
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Another promising third base prospect in Philadelphia, Dominican Maikel Franco has accelerated his course to the big leagues thanks to a blistering 2013 season with AA .339/.363/.563 line at AA Reading followed up on a spring .299/.349/.576 at A-level Clearwater. The young slugger crushed a combined 31 homers in 541 at-bats. If he stays this hot, he'll be in Philly this year, though his prime is another couple of years away. With the Phillies looking a few years away from contention, the organization may take the conservative road with Franco in order to hold down his substantial future costs.
More Scouting Book Info on Maikel Franco
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A high-profile 2010 pick for the Tigers, high-schooler Nick Castellanos was one of the best bats available in the draft. He shows very quick wrists and great natural hitting ability already, which means as he grows and fills out, he could become a certifiable monster. He has surprising speed for a big guy, too.
He played shortstop in high school, but Scouting Book readers know that we were pretty sure he would be a third baseman or corner outfielder as a pro from the moment the Tigers signed him. In a full season of A-ball in West Michigan, he was indeed primarily deployed at third base (we're so smrt), and he raked to the tune of .312/.367/.436. His AA debut in 2012 didn't go quite as swimmingly, but .264/.296/.382 is nothing to be ashamed of when you're only 20 years old and facing top flight pitching for the first time. Detroit, ever on the lookout for more ways to squeeze sluggers into the lineup, has also started testing young Nicky in right field, and on their OF-light MLB squad, that might be a better place for his debut, at least until Prince Fielder graduates to full-time DH status, leaving at least one of the corner infield spots vacant again.
More Scouting Book Info on Nick Castellanos
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Top Prospects 2013