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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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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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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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 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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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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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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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 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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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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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 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. He found a good level at AA Bowie in 2012, and should spend most or all of 2013 in the same uniform.
More Scouting Book Info on Dylan Bundy
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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 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 nominal shortstop, Puerto Rican 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 have one or the other in 2014.
More Scouting Book Info on Javier Baez
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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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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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A tall and lanky teenager who arrived in the DR in the winter of 2011, outfielder Jorge Soler is one of the most promising Cuban prospects in baseball today. He's already shown off his tools in Dominica, and while he looks like a centerfielder right now, physically, his height and young age make it quite possible he'll be a corner fielder when he finishes growing. And if his loopy power swing develops as expected, he'll hit like one too.
He's already showing signs of MLB videogame level power at the plate, and his very strong arm is certainly real. His iffy contact skills and lack of patience at the plate, though, are equally clear indicators that he's still a rather rough gem. One bonus for his future home in The Show: the youngster already has an electric personality in his toolbox, which means he could be a real cover boy come 2015 or so.
More Scouting Book Info on Jorge Soler
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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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The big slugger named Jonathan Singleton had no real future in Philadelphia, but in the AL-destined Astros he looks like a heck of a 1B/DH piece for the near future. Even as a corner outfield prospect, he's competent, and his powerful left-handed bat does nothing but hit. Singleton raked a nice .284 with 21 homers at AA Corpus Christi last season, which would have placed him squarely into contention for an Opening Day job in Houston if he hadn't derailed his career with a 50-game PED-free drug suspension. He'll be back around midseason and should push his way onto the MLB squad before the year is over, regardless.
More Scouting Book Info on Jonathan Singleton
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The number two overall pick in 2011, Seattle pitching prospect Danny Hultzen is a solid lefthander who draws more than his share of Cliff Lee comparisons. With a fastball that drops in around 94mph and a no-nonsense workmanlike approach to the game, the comparison isn't far off base, either. In three seasons of duty at the University of Virginia, Hultzen went 32-5 with a 2.08 ERA. The Cavs ace also struck out a nasty 148 batters in 103 innings in his final season.
In addition to the well-advertised pinpoint fastball, he showed advanced ability to find and locate a nifty cutter, a decent change, and an occasionally-wicked slider, though he may back-shelf that one for awhile. He looked ready for MLB last season, but with not much to play for, the Mariners erred on the discretionary side, which should keep their soon-to-be-stellar rotation affordable a little bit longer. Look for him this season.
More Scouting Book Info on Danny Hultzen
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Top Prospects 2013