The No. 1 Prospect For 2014 Is …

In preparation for our highly successful and critically acclaimed A Podcast For Your Eyes debut last week, our Benevolent Dictator Bret Goodwin asked Craig and myself to create individual Top 10 lists for 2014.

While I was initially glad to accept my assignment simply because I find these things enjoyable, I was surprised to find that it’s actually a pretty useful exercise, too. If you want to really put a prospect under a microscope and truly weight his upside, what better way than to ask yourself if you could ever see that man topping a list of all players in the minors?

I’ve carried that idea to its logical conclusion here, and am bringing you eight players I think could rank No. 1 over all on Top 100 or 101 or 150 lists before the 2014 season. The first four names might make you say “duh,” but reasoning is provided. The following four might surprise you, and reasoning is provided here as well. My Top 150 rankings from my 2013 list are in parentheses.

The Frontrunners

Xander Bogaerts, SS, BOS (3)

I’m not sure if you guys know this, but I’m actually sort of high on Bogaerts. All he did last season was decide to post a wRC+ of 144 in High-A and of 159 in Double-A as a 19-year-old, all while convincing many that he can at least begin his career at shortstop. That’s, like, really good. I don’t think he sees a ton of MLB this season because there are two capable players head of him in Stephen Drew and Jose Iglesias, and if he does switch positions he’ll need time to adjust as well. But if Bogaerts is still prospect eligible next season and he still profiles as a shortstop, he’s almost guaranteed to top my list.

Javier Baez, SS, CHC (12)

One of the bigger boom-or-bust prospects in the minors, Baez is allergic to walks and strikes out too much, but men are willing to go to war and die for his bat speed. Similarly to Bogaerts, Baez quieted some of the concerns over his ability to man shortstop in the near term, although the latter is a year further away and I think his defensive profile is more in question. Either way, the potential exists here for 30-plus homers, an average that starts with a “3” and 15 stolen bases to boot. If that sounds a bit like Troy Tulowitzki to you, you’re not too far off.

Taijuan Walker, SP, SEA (9)

I’m generally hesitant to rank pitchers No. 1 overall unless they are named Stephen Strasburg, but Walker may be too dreamy to stay away from if he improves his command. He was solid if not spectacular last season, posting an 8.38 K/9, 3.55 BB/9 and 4.04 FIP in 126.2 Double-A innings, but stats don’t tell the whole story here. He’s just a little ways away from putting it all together, and when his delivery clicks and he can repeat it more consistently there’s nothing stopping him from becoming one of the most durable and exciting pitchers in the game.

Yaisel Puig, OF, LAD (66)

I want to see more of Puig before I crown him king of anything, and if you’re one of the people throwing Bo Jackson comps on him you need to go take a cold shower. But there’s no doubting that Puig’s been everything the Dodgers could’ve hoped for to this point, and if the hit tool can even play to a 50 or 55 we’re talking about a five category Fantasy monster. He might lose his prospect eligibility this season but unless there’s an injury to the Dodgers outfield I don’t see where he fits. A couple hundred MiLB at-bats would probably do him well anyway.

Also considered: Addison Russell (SS, OAK), Miguel Sano (3B, MIN), Byron Buxton (OF, MIN)

 

Darkhorse Candidates

Gary Sanchez, C, NYY (29)

The backstop with the biggest pure upside in the minors, Sanchez has a bat that can play in the middle of a lineup and now looks to be adequate enough defensively to stay behind the plate for the start of his career as well. He’s beginning 2013 in High-A but already posted a wRC+ of 117 there last season, leading me to believe he’ll be in Double-A by June. That puts him on track for a 2014 MLB promotion, and plus-hitting catchers tend to be adored by the online prospect community. His stock is rising.

Bubba Starling, OF, KC (39)

Starling has yet to translate his ridiculous tools into on-field performance, but even a modest improvement in his swing path and pitch recognition could catapult him to elite prospect level. Some (perhaps most now?) remain discouraged by Starling’s performance to date, but the skill set is Matt Kemp-level exciting. Of course there’s plenty of Drew Stubbs or Brett Jackson potential here too, but a man can dream. Few others can match his upside.

Aaron Sanchez, SP, TOR (37)

The Blue Jays may have gutted their farm system this offseason but they retained their highest-upside player in Sanchez, who is a lower walk rate away from blossoming into one of the minors’ best pitchers. The likes of Keith Law and other top Interweb analysts have thrown the “future ace” label on Sanchez already, and the 20-year-old is poised for a meaningful test at High-A this season. It’s feasible he could top some Top 100s in a year.

Archie Bradley, SP, ARI (36)

Much of what you just read for Sanchez rings true for Bradley as well. With a prototypical pitcher’s build and well above average stuff, Bradley has all the ingredients you want in someone who can pitch near the top of a rotation. He posted a BB/9 of 5.59 in Single-A last season, though, and that’s going to need to fall by at least one batter if we’re going to talk about listing Bradley 1/1. He’s one of the two or three arms I’ll be keeping the closest eye on this year.

Also considered: Max Fried (SP, SD), Gregory Polanco (OF, PIT), Adalberto Mondesi (SS, KC)

Wait, What About (AKA players who I think will no longer be prospect eligible)

Oscar Taveras (OF, STL), Jurickson Profar (SS, TEX), Dylan Bundy (SP, BAL), Wil Myers (OF, TB), Billy Hamilton (OF, CIN), Gerrit Cole (SP, PIT), Shelby Miller (SP, STL), Jose Fernandez (SP, MIA), Zack Wheeler (SP, NYM), Nick Castellanos (OF/3B, DET), Anthony Rendon (INF, WAS)

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26 comments on “The No. 1 Prospect For 2014 Is …

  1. Josh says:

    I feel like if Byron Buxton really puts it together, builds on the frame, and hits for power like he has been, he could be a healthy combination of both Upton brothers in one. Puig is a monster, no place to play. How do you see that panning out? Baez is one hell of a ball player. Probably my personal favorite prospect (we also share a birthday, potentially down to the hour. I should look into that.) Sano’s hit tool worries me. Mark Reynolds 2.0??

    PS. Formatting error in transition from Boegarts to Baez.

    P.P.S. Good write up. Love your stuff, forget about your site sometimes though.

    • Ben Carsley says:

      Hi Josh,

      Let’s see if I can answer all of your questions at once here:

      re: Puig — I don’t see where he plays unless one of Crawford, Either or Kemp is injured. That’s certainly a possibility but it’s not something you can bank on, and with A-Gon entrenched at first there’s nowhere to move Either. I guess I could see AE traded, but the Dodgers would have to eat a lot of that contract.

      re: Sano — I think Mark Reynolds 2.0 is too extreme, but I agree that his strikeouts will always curtail his average. I know Bret thinks his ceiling is .280, but Craig and I came down closer to .260. We discussed this for a while in our “podcast” the other day, so it might be worth checking out.

      re: Formatting — fixed, thank you

      re: Kind words — Thank you for the kind words, but please don’t forget our site :)

    • I’m with you about Buxton, but his odds of being #1 is pretty small since he’s likely to spend the whole season at Low-A. Top 5 though? Absolutely could be.

  2. What is your prediction for Rendon as far as seeing the Bigs?

    • Ben Carsley says:

      That’s a pretty injury prone infield with Espinosa and Zimmerman, so I think Rendon gets at least 200 PA this season. The only way that’s derailed is if Rendon himself is hurt again, which is certainly a possibility.

      He’s too good to keep in the minors much past July or August, though. Trading someone to make room for him would make sense.

      • Josh says:

        There used to be that “the nationals will trade Desmond, move Espinosa to short and play Rendon at 2nd” theory. With Desmond’s big season last year, I don’t see them moving him until they can’t afford him anymore. Does Rendon’s fantasy value not increase significantly at second? Outside of Cano, Pedroia (sometimes) and Kinsler (Sometimes), 2b isn’t just a stacked position. 3B is healthy. What do you think about the Nats’ situation (albeit, not a bad one to have)?How do you think it will pan out?

        I think, baring injury, their best bet would be to use Espinosa as a super util guy to keep the lineup fresh, and let rendon play second, while still taking reps at 3rd in practice and such.

      • Ben Carsley says:

        I think Espinosa is awfully good to keep as a utility player, but at the same time there aren’t many places they can upgrade their club right now.

        I’d wager that the scenario you described will play out for at least a little while, with Rendon bouncing between 2b and 3b with Zimmerman, Espinosa and Desmond all getting the occasional day off.

        Rendon’s value of course gets a significant boost from 2B eligibility, although I’d caution that 3B isn’t quite as deep as it used to be either.

      • Craig Goldstein says:

        I’d just like to add the toll 2nd base could take on a player who has suffered 3 ankle injuries dating back to his college years. I don’t think it’s likely that he makes extended appearances at 2nd base, unless Espinosa gets injured.

  3. Chris says:

    Christian Yelich?

  4. Brad says:

    Where do you think Arenado falls in this mix?

  5. John Smith says:

    Mike Zunino over Gary Sanchez as dark horse. I think Carlos Correa has to be considered as a possible #1 as well. I like Kevin Gausman as a nice sleeper too. Puig doesn’t belong on the list.

    • Ben Carsley says:

      Zunino likely will lose his eligibility this season, but his upside isn’t high enough anyway. Unless Correa has an Addison Russell-like takeoff, he won’t be close enough to the majors to warrant consideration. Gausman is a possibility but is generally considered more of a No. 2 SP than an ace. Care to elaborate on Puig?

  6. Abs says:

    Wanted to ask, which players that are around the 100-150 ranks can make big moves this year, i am in a really deep 18 team dynasty league, and my current farm team is Masahiro Tanaka & Jose Dariel Abreu, i am looking for some prospects like Taveras, that moved up from the 60’s to top of the class, any help would be greatly appreciated

  7. Ryan says:

    I know Eddie Rosario doesnt deserve no.1 overall consideration but im wondering what your guys thoughts are on him and if he could be relevant this year or next?

    • Fantasy relevant? No, as he’s not likely to debut until 2015 even if things go well for him. The best thing for his fantasy value this year is if he can show competent defense at 2B. If he can’t, he’s unlikely to be huge fantasy contributor, as he’ll be playing OF and the bar is higher there. But he could be a 15/15 guy with a solid average if things break right for him.

      • Ben Carsley says:

        Largely seconded, although a great 2013 campaign in High-A would make a 2014 MLB debut plausible. Rosario is a really fascinating prospect and a guy who’d have an interesting skill set as a 2B, but Bret is right that the sex appeal drops if he moves to the OF. I’d imagine the Twins give him the majority of this season to try and stick at 2B, though.

  8. Beemoney97 says:

    What do you think of my dynasty salary cap team and the 10 prospects I own. Here is my team, Miami Marlins: https://docs.google.com/spreadsheet/ccc?key=0AhvQrgk25wA3dFhGZkJlRXRGUE5aWUdkN2dhc3FPNVE#gid=10 Thanks

    • Beemoney97 says:

      also, the scoring is H2H Each Cat with these as the cats:

      Batting Average, Home Runs, Runs Scored, Runs Batted In, Stolen Bases, Slugging Pct, On Base Pct, Total Bases

      ______

      Earned Run Average*, Strikeouts, Walks plus Hits Per Innings Pitched*, Wins, Saves, Quality Starts, Home Runs Allowed*, Holds
      *needs 6 Games Started for Pitchers

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