Top Baseball Prospects for 2013
Now updated for 2013'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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William (Wil) 'Wumbly' Myers is a hard-nosed grinder who some call a throwback to a dirtier era, a ballplayer's ballplayer who can perform well at almost any position. He was treated as a catcher until 2011, when the Royals started using him exclusively in the outfield as a Bryce Harper-style experiment to get him to the big leagues a couple of years sooner. While it's always a shame when such a promising and bright catcher gets accelerated out of the position, it's always been Myers's bat that's the centerpiece of his game. The .304/.378/.554 he slashed at AAA Omaha in 2012 showed that his bat could play pretty much anywhere, anytime, and Baseball America agreed when they named Myers their Minor League Player of the Year for 2012. His defense is already acceptable, if not highlight-reel. He's ready, and his new owners in Tampa should start reaping the benefits this season.
More Scouting Book Info on Wil Myers
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The Cardinals first round pick in 2009, pitcher Shelby Miller is a raw but talented prospect with a wicked-hot fastball that has excellent and natural late movement. He's learning to rely on more than just his admittedly-great heat to excel in pro ball, too, so it's not surprising to see his nifty 12-6 curve frustrate batters. More exciting is the extra sink he's starting to trust on the less-explosive two-seam version of his fastball, a pitch that even good hitters will beat into the ground with abandon. With a projectable body that could probably add muscle in the years to come, he looks like a good workhorse candidate in St. Louis starting in 2013.
More Scouting Book Info on Shelby Miller
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Spending $8M to sign number one pick Gerrit Cole might have seemed extravagant for a 'small market' team like the Pittsburgh Pirates, but when you keep finishing in last place year after year, you need to get something out of it, right? The net result is that the Pirates look very wise indeed: the righthanded Cole joins Jameson Taillon in what might be the best 1-2 punch on any prospect roster in the majors, and giving Cole such a high bonus kept him from demanding a major league contract, which increases the Pirates' flexibility and future control over his career path. Mr. Boras will spin it otherwise, but the Pirates definitely won the first round of Cole's Career Management Battle.
Away from the table and on the field, Cole was one of the best starters in UCLA history. He left the school firmly entrenched on pretty much every record and leader board, and he'll bring his 98mph cannon to bear in 2013 after blowing through the minors last season. Some will pressure Pittsburgh to start the season with him on the big league club, but unless the team is desperate, a June promotion would be smarter, fiscally-speaking.
More Scouting Book Info on Gerrit Cole
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A big Dominican outfielder with an even bigger bat that he brings from the left side, the Cardinals' Oscar Taveras was promoted to AA ball in 2012 and promptly spanked it to the tune of .321/.380/.572. Even scarier, those 23 homers and 37 doubles will add up to some serious power once he finishes filling out: he's still only 20 years old. He will probably spend most of 2013 back in the minors, but he's the most exciting big bat of the year, so it's likely that St Louis will at least give him a look-see in the big leagues, too.
More Scouting Book Info on Oscar Taveras
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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.
The power he wasn't showing early arrived in bunches last season, as the now-corner infielder smashed 28 homers and 28 doubles on his way to a .258/.373/.521 line at A-level Beloit. He'll work through the rest of A-ball and into AA in 2013, pending setbacks. 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 city Cities.
More Scouting Book Info on Miguel Sano
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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 looks to have taken a step back in 2012, as he struggled at times in Jackson, but once you account for his aggressive promotion, a 4.69 ERA / 1.374 WHIP doesn't look so bad for a nineteen year old in AA ball. He did carry a heavy workload for a teenager, pushing through 127 innings of work while striking out almost one hitter every inning. 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 potential. He needs to start the year back in AA, but if he makes progress, it's not unreasonable to expect a late-season look in Seattle. Mid-2014 looks like his real callup date, however.
More Scouting Book Info on Taijuan Walker
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A sold all-around outfielder with a good line-drive stroke from the right side of the plate and better than average power, Cuban prospect Yasiel Puig was one of the most sought-after international free agents of 2012.
Yaz took big strides forward in his final year with Cienfuegos, raising his average to .330 and his OPS to an all-star 1.011 on his way to raising scouts eyebrows significantly. His ability to work a walk increased significantly, helping the rest of his game as a result, though he still showed a propensity to chase bad pitches now and then, and usually in bunches. In the field, he's a bit messy with his routes but shows good instincts and a strong enough arm. He's an average to above-average runner, though he won't be a base-stealing threat unless he sharpens his skills substantially. He's still getting acclimated to life in the USA, but the .327/.407/.423 line from his first sixty plate appearances in A ball, not to mention a very strong spring in 2013, suggests that he's for-real, indeed. Still just 21, he's already looking like a Matt Kemp style all-around athlete who could help the MLB ballclub immediately... assuming there's a place for him to play every day.
More Scouting Book Info on Yasiel Puig
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As expected by Scouting Book readers, rake-thin Colombian righthander Julio Teheran forced his way onto the Braves roster ahead of schedule, and he should be considered one of the very best prospects in all of baseball despite some erratic results in 2012. Unless he falls off the rails, this will be the last time he qualifies as a prospect: he should be be toeing the rubber every fifth day for the Braves this season.
The man scouts have called 'the best Latin American pitcher since Felix Hernandez' has a lot of pressure to handle, but he's in the best possible system to nurture his development while also containing his ego. His tribulations in 2012 stemmed from a failure to locate his fastball consistently, a problem that always causes a cascade of secondary issues for any pitcher, but he seemed to re-find his handle in the winter DSL, making him a very high upside pick for 2013, though the risk of another frustrating regression is real.
More Scouting Book Info on Julio Teheran
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The fastest legs in red stockings, young Billy Hamilton should soon get a shot at locking down a long-term job in Cincinnati's young lineup. The Pioneer League's player of the year in 2010 has just kept on running wild since, most recently stealing 155 bases (not a typo) at an 80% success rate in 2012. The switch-hitting Hamilton really does look like a prototypical leadoff hitter thanks to his wheels and on-base skills: a player doesn't even get 190 opportunities to steal unless one can get on base an awful lot in the first place. In the field, he's capable of shortstop (his natural position), but the Reds have spent the last year prepping him to play the outfield, better to fit into the 2013 lineup.
More Scouting Book Info on Billy Hamilton
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A righthander most thought was taken a bit high in the first round of 2011's amateur draft, Miami's Jose Fernandez proved to be worth every penny, and he's now the highest-quality arm in a system that's desperate for pitching depth. The big Cuban defector chased big money all the way to Miami, braving sharks both literal and metaphorical, and has since hit 99mph on the radar gun and shown signs of a plus breaking pitch. He's getting closer to major league ready, but with Miami not exactly on the cusp of anything (other than a riot from unhappy fans), the team isn't likely to push him too fast.
More Scouting Book Info on Jose Fernandez
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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.
Bogaerts earned a late-season promotion to AA in 2012, and he showed pretty clearly (.326/.351/.598) that he's ready for a new challenge. 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 the possibility he may bump Middlebrooks to first base one of these years. Either way, he'll be a middle-lineup guy, so it's safe to pre-order your Bogaerts jersey, but remember to triple-check the spelling.
More Scouting Book Info on Xander Bogaerts
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It's always nice when you can trade away a fading veteran for a team's top prospect, and that's what the Mets did in acquiring Zack Wheeler from the Giants as part of their fire sale of 2011.
A flame-throwing righthander from Georgia, Wheeler mixes his 96mph fastball with a curve ball that's already a plus pitch. He's working now on adding a changeup, and if he can make it even a league-average offering, he can be a middle-rotation starter anywhere, anytime. Even without one, his fastball-curve combination is good enough for a major league bullpen today. He'll need some seasoning, of course, and most scouts would prefer to see that his pitcher-perfect body can hold up under a full season's workload before signing his ticket to Flushing. While he could pitch the Bigs right now, the Mets could benefit from showing a little patience: they won't be contenders in 2013 anyway, so it's probably better to bring an even-better Wheeler to the majors later, rather than sooner.
More Scouting Book Info on Zack Wheeler
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Like a taller twin to Gerrit Cole, righty James Taillon is a geniune monster power arm from Texas (via Quebec), a very high-ceiling pitcher who has already cracked 100mph on many radar guns. If that's not enough to get your attention, note that while his slider and change are below average, his curveball has already been rated a plus pitch. If he can hold his arm together under increasing workloads and develop his command and control to pro levels, he could be a viable #2 or #3 starter by 2014 or so, with a shot at being a genuine ace somewhere down the road. If Pittsburgh can keep Taillon, Cole and Allie together and healthy, they could have a rotation that evokes 1990s-era Atlanta only a couple of years from now.
More Scouting Book Info on Jameson Taillon
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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 if he blossoms, he'll be a cornerstone of a future Astros lineup as it fights to contend in the tough AL West.
More Scouting Book Info on Carlos Correa
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The player formerly known as Carlos Matias is a high-risk, high-upside pitcher from the Dominican who brings an advanced fastball and pitchability to the US mound. He's a bit of a mystery, and there's some question about how well his stuff will translate to the US game, but his minor league performance in 2011 quelled any fears that he would be a bust, and his 2012 numbers at AA Springfield (2.90/1.18/58:22 in 71 innings) propelled him to the front of the pitching prospects pack. He could see some bullpen time in St Louis this year, but a 2014 rotation spot is the real target, here.
More Scouting Book Info on Carlos Martinez
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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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Travis D'Arnaud is one of the very top catching prospects in baseball today. Not to be confused with infielder Chase, Travis is an offensively gifted catcher who's ready for major league ball, at least from an offensive perspective: he slashed .333/.380/.595 last year at AAA Las Vegas, ticking off 16 homers in 67 games. A major prize in the sell-high trade of RA Dickey in December 2012, d'Arnaud also has above-average speed for a catcher to go along with a great eye for the strike zone. While his game-calling and defense aren't quite ready for prime time (yet), he'll be pushed along quickly. He should be hitting high in any Mets batting order in 2013, and for years to come.
More Scouting Book Info on Travis d'Arnaud
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The fourth overall pick in the draft, righthander Trevor Bauer was overshadowed by rotation mate Gerrit Cole while at UCLA, but after turning pro he became one of the most impressive young arms anywhere in the minors, and he's as hot a ticket in our book as Cole is today.
Bauer is a smallish pitcher, with a bit of an unconventional motion, but his quirks are not the flaky flamethrower type, they're more of a dazzling bag-of-tricks variety. While he can reach 100mph if he wishes (we promise), he doesn't actually pitch there, preferring to stay down around 94mph with great and varying movement on his selection of sliders and cutters. He's also got a good head for the game and shows an Ichiro-level commitment to stretching and conditioning exercise. Acquired as the main return for Shin Soo Choo in a threeway trade via Cincinnati, it's possible Bauer will break camp with the Indians, but his real prime time won't be until midseason or even 2014.
More Scouting Book Info on Trevor Bauer
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A 6-foot-4, solidly-built athlete, Marlin prospect Christian Yelich is a left-handed hitter with a picturesque swing that's a thing of beauty. Yelich is already showing good power, and as he grows into his body, that power should grow along with him.
Though originally seen as a first baseman, the Marlins preferred him as an outfielder, and he seems capable of playing any of the three positions there. He's ready enough, but the Marlins may try to hold him back for cost-savings, so it's a bit of a coin toss whether 2013 or 2014 will mark his permanent MLB assignment. A possible (huge) trade could also open up an opportunity earlier than expected.
More Scouting Book Info on Christian Yelich
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Top Prospects 2013