2013 Prospect Sleepers: American League

The Major League Baseball off-season has been a busy one in terms of prospect coverage at FanGraphs. First came the Top 15 Prospects lists, then the overall Top 100 Prospects list, and now finally a breakdown of 30 interesting sleeper prospects for the coming year. We looked at one player for each of the National League teams earlier this week, and today we’re rolling out 15 more prospects – one for each of the American League clubs.

American League East

How Acquired: 2012 19th round
Predicted 2013 Level: low-A
In a Perfect World: He becomes a No. 3 starter
What Could Go Wrong: He doesn’t develop a reliable breaking ball
Big League ETA: 2016

Selected out of a Maryland high school in 2012 as a very under-the-radar draft prospect, Hader’s value increased significantly after signing when he saw his mid-80s velocity jump up into the 87-94 mph range. His secondary stuff has a long way to go but his projectable velocity, solid pitcher’s frame and four-pitch repertoire makes him someone to watch in the coming year.

BOSTON: Ty Buttrey, RHP
How Acquired: 2012 4th round
Predicted 2013 Level: low-A
In a Perfect World: He becomes a No. 2 or 3 starter
What Could Go Wrong: He could fail to develop his off-speed pitch
Big League ETA: 2016

Buttrey is a big, physical right-hander who was drafted out of a North Carolina high school in 2012. A talent evaluator I spoke with said his fastball has plus-plus potential and was up to 97 mph last spring. He also flashes a curveball that has plus potential. The contact said, “It’s hard to put lofty expectations on a [recently-drafted] high school player, but he has the tools to develop into a front to mid-rotation starter.” The 20-year-old hurler already stands 6’5” with a strong frame so hopefully he’ll develop into a durable innings-eater.

NEW YORK: Greg Bird, 1B
How Acquired: 2011 5th round
Predicted 2013 Level: low-A
In a Perfect World: A sweet-swinging, left-handed-hitting first baseman with pop
What Could Go Wrong: Injuries keep him from realizing his potential
Big League ETA: 2017

When he was signed for more than $1 million in 2011, it was expected that Bird would develop into an offensive-minded catcher. Continued back problems shelved that idea last year and he was moved to the less demanding position of first base. The relocation takes a bite out of his defensive value but he has a very promising left-handed bat that should hit for both average and power.

TAMPA BAY: Brandon Martin, SS
How Acquired: 2011 1S round
Predicted 2013 Level: Extended spring training
In a Perfect World: A starting shortstop with above-average defense and speed
What Could Go Wrong: He ends up on a big league bench
Big League ETA: 2017

The first thing out of the mouth of a contact speaking to me about Martin was that his tools are far more impressive than his statistics to date. The athletic shortstop possesses plus foot speed, plus arm strength and plus bat speed. The raw California athlete is just starting to scratch the surface of his potential. “He’s made great strides at shortstop and as a young man,” he said. Still just 19, Martin has age on his side so a third stay in extended spring training would not be a nail in his coffin.

TORONTO: Ryan Borucki, RHP
How Acquired: 2012 15th round
Predicted 2013 Level: Extended spring training
In a Perfect World: He becomes a No. 2 or 3 starter
What Could Go Wrong: There is a long road ahead so he faces a lot of obstacles
Big League ETA: 2017

Borucki, 19, made just four appearances after signing out of an Illinois high school in the 15th round of the 2012 draft. He immediately caught the attention of the organization and a contact I spoke with was impressed with his brief debut. “Ryan definitely stands out as a sleeper,” he said. “He’s an athletic left-handed pitcher with quick twitch [muscles] and lots of projection.” Borucki was anywhere from 88-94 mph this summer in limited innings pitched.

American League Central

CHICAGO: Chris Bassitt, RHP
How Acquired: 2011 16th round
Predicted 2013 Level: double-A
In a Perfect World: He becomes a No. 3 or 4 starter
What Could Go Wrong: He fails to develop his secondary offerings
Big League ETA: 2014

A big, strong hurler with a fastball that can hit 94-96 mph with heavy sink, Bassitt needs to further develop his secondary pitches if he’s going to stick in the starting rotation. He was a college closer at the University of Akron and didn’t take to starting until the second half of 2012 at the high-A ball level. His 6’5” frame helps him get an outstanding downward plane on his heater, which creates above-average ground-ball rates. That could allow him to develop into a dominating late-game reliever if the starting gig doesn’t work out.

CLEVELAND: Dillon Howard, RHP
How Acquired: 2011 2nd round
Predicted 2013 Level: Extended spring training
In a Perfect World: He becomes a top-of-the-order starter
What Could Go Wrong: His stuff fails to bounce back
Big League ETA: 2016

Howard was a highly-regarded amateur who received just under $2 million to turn pro in 2011. The right-hander showed up to spring training in 2012 out of shape and dealt with a variety of injuries. He saw his velocity dip into the mid-80s and his breaking ball failed to develop as hoped. Howard saw his velocity improve by the end of 2012 and enters ’13 looking to put the disastrous debut behind him. If he can’t stick in the starting rotation, he could perhaps take his fastball-changeup combination to the back-end of the bullpen.

DETROIT: Jason King, 3B
How Acquired: 2011 4th round
Predicted 2013 Level: high-A
In a Perfect World: He becomes an above-average hitter and defender
What Could Go Wrong: Injuries continue to plague him
Big League ETA: 2015

King has flashed significant potential since signing but injuries have stunted his development. Despite that fact, a contact I spoke with feels he has a promising future in the organization. “He has power from both sides of the plate and a strong throwing arm,” he said. “He’s really strong and put together like a linebacker.” With top prospect Nick Castellanos now splitting time between the hot corner and right field, a strong 2013 season could help King enter the conversation as the third baseman of the future in Detroit.

How Acquired: 2012 7th round
Predicted 2013 Level: low-A
In a Perfect World: He becomes a slugging left-fielder
What Could Go Wrong: He tops out as a quad-A slugging with contact issues
Big League ETA: 2017

A contact I spoke with said Ford was a steal as a seventh-round draft pick in 2012, due to his enticing plus power potential. “He has the easiest raw power to all fields of anyone in the [Royals] system,” he said. “He’s an exceptional person with good make-up.” Ford currently makes below-average contact but the contact I spoke with said the prospect is extremely coachable and has the desire to get better.

MINNESOTA: Hudson Boyd
How Acquired: 2011 1S round
Predicted 2013 Level: low-A
In a Perfect World: He becomes an innings-eating, mid-rotation starter
What Could Go Wrong: His stuff doesn’t take a step forward
Big League ETA: 2016

Boyd, 20, flashed a lot of potential as an amateur but he entered pro ball out of shape and he’s still working to realize his past successes. His fastball now sits in the 87-91 mph and his secondary stuff hasn’t taken the steps forward that were expected in 2012. He’s flashed good stuff in the past so there remains hope that things will start to click as he adjusts to the regiment of professional baseball. Boyd may eventually make his way to the bullpen where his conditioning/lack of stamina would be less of an issue and his stuff might play up.

American League West

HOUSTON: Andrew Aplin, OF
How Acquired: 2012 5th round
Predicted 2013 Level: high-A
In a Perfect World: He becomes an average, every-day outfielder
What Could Go Wrong: He settles in as a fourth or fifth outfielder
Big League ETA:

Aplin offers a wide variety of skills but doesn’t do any one thing in an above-average capacity. As a front office contact stated, “He has a well-rounded approach with an average hit tool, average arm, average speed, and almost average power.” Aplin plays a solid center field and could develop into a two-hole hitter because of his ability to handle the bat from the left side of the plate and his heady base running.

LOS ANGELES: Eric Stamets, SS
How Acquired: 2012 6th round
Predicted 2013 Level: high-A
In a Perfect World: A defense-first big league shortstop
What Could Go Wrong: His bat fails to develop and he washes out in AA
Big League ETA: 2015

Stamets is an outstanding defensive shortstop with excellent range, a strong arm and good hands. He also possesses above-average speed, which helps add some value to his offensive game. He hit .274 at the low-A level in his debut but he lacks pop and could struggle to make consistent contact as he moves up the ladder. Stamets, 21, could carve out a decent big league career even if he doesn’t hit much thanks to his other skills.

OAKLAND: Bruce Maxwell, C
How Acquired: 2012 2nd round
Predicted 2013 Level: low-A
In a Perfect World: A offensive-minded backstop
What Could Go Wrong: He fails to handle defensive responsibilities at catcher
Big League ETA: 2015

The left-handed hitting Maxwell has the potential to develop into a solid offensive-minded catcher. He handles the strike zone well and offers average or better power potential. Behind the plate, the former second round pick has a lot of work to do on his receiving skills but he did an outstanding job throwing out runners during his debut. If he doesn’t stick at catcher, Maxwell could move to first base on a permanent basis, but it would take a big bite out of his value.

SEATTLE: Tyler Marlette, C
How Acquired: 2011 5th round
Predicted 2013 Level: low-A
In a Perfect World: An offensive-minded catcher
What Could Go Wrong: His glove fails to develop, tops out as a AAA first baseman
Big League ETA: 2016

Mike Zunino gets all the love as the best catching prospect in the Mariners system but Marlette is a solid sleeper. He had a respectable offensive season in short-season ball in 2012 but he needs to develop a more patient approach at the plate if he’s going to realize his potential. A contact I spoke with, though, feels he’ll make the necessary adjustments in time. “At this stage I don’t mind that he’s aggressive at the plate. In time, as he gets more comfortable with his own strike zone and mechanics, it should take care of itself,” he said. Marlette needs a lot of polish behind the plate but he’s shown glimpses of potential.

TEXAS: Odubel Herrera, 2B
How Acquired: 2008 international FA
Predicted 2013 Level: double-A
In a Perfect World: An offensive-minded second baseman
What Could Go Wrong: His defensive issues drag him down
Big League ETA: 2014

The Rangers organization boasts some intriguing middle infield talents and Herrera tends to get overlooked because he lacks the consistency and polish to stick on the left side of the diamond. The young Venezuelan hits for average with gap pop from the left side of the plate, has better-than-average speed and is athletic enough to handle a number of positions for short periods of time. Herrera, 21, may need a trade to receive a fair opportunity to establish himself at the big league level.

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Marc Hulet has been writing at FanGraphs since 2008. His work focuses on prospect analysis. Follow him on Twitter @marchulet.

3 Responses to “2013 Prospect Sleepers: American League”

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  1. Eric says:

    is Borucki a RHP or LHP?

    Vote -1 Vote +1

  2. Shawnuel says:

    I personally LOVE Marlette. Dude has that “baseball player” aura along with pretty good athleticism. Could play o corner position if Catching doesn’t work out. He and Jack Marder (along with John Hicks) give Seattle one of the strongest battalion of minor league catching prospects in the game, when added to Zunino. Marcus Littlewood could develop into a decent backstop as well.

    Regarding the Twins. What is your feel on Niko Goodrum, SS prospect? I hear he doesn’t have a lot of holes at the plate and can make loud contact at times, and could develop average or better power down the line. Has also shown good pitch recognition skills

    Should be able to stick at short. Have you seen him?

    Vote -1 Vote +1

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