The Top 50 Prospects for 2014 by Projected WAR

Note: because he (a) assembled the following list by hand and also (b) is a careless idiot, the author neglected some names from the first version of this post. Do not hesitate to raise concerns about the absence of a notable prospect.

What follows is an attempt to identify, using a nearly sound methodology, the rookie-eligible players* who are most ready to produce wins at the major-league level in 2014 (regardless of whether they actually receive the opportunity to do so). What it is not is an attempt to replace the work done by prospect analysts who assemble similar lists by means of “knowledge” and “skill.” Unlike their lists, no attempt has been made here to account for future value.

*In this case, defined as any player who’s recorded fewer than 130 at-bats or 50 innings — which is to say, there’s been no attempt to identify each player’s time spent on the active roster, on account of that’s a super tedious endeavor.

To assemble the list, what I’ve done first is to calculate prorated WAR figures for all players for whom either the Steamer or ZiPS projection systems have produced a forecast. Hitters’ numbers are normalized to 550 plate appearances; starting pitchers’, to 150 innings — i.e. the playing-time thresholds at which a league-average player would produce approximately a 2.0 WAR. Catcher projections are prorated to 415 plate appearances to account for their reduced playing time.

All figures published below are averaged 2014 projections produced by Steamer and ZiPS, except in those cases (represented by an asterisk*) where only Steamer has produced a projection. Players eligible for the list either (a) enter their age-26 season or lower in 2014 or, alternatively, (b) were signed as international free agents this offseason.

Finally, note that, in many cases, defensive value has been calculated entirely by positional adjustment based on the relevant player’s minor-league defensive starts — which is to say, there has been no attempt to account for the runs a player is likely to save in the field. As a result, players with an impressive offensive profile relative to their position are sometimes perhaps overvalued — that is, in such cases where their actual defensive skills are sub-par.

The Top Ten

1. Masahiro Tanaka, RHP, New York AL (Profile)

IP K/9 BB/9 HR/9 FIP WAR
150 8.1 1.7 0.99 3.45 3.2

For a number of reasons, Tanaka’s appearance atop this list isn’t particularly surprising. He recorded excellent numbers in Japan, for one. He was highly sought after by major-league clubs, for another. Also, his splitter has received positive reviews from every deity.

2. Jose Abreu, 1B, Chicago AL (Profile)

PA BB% K% wOBA BsR WAR
550 10.3% 19.0% .379 -1.2 3.1

Like Tanaka, Abreu is a totally reasonable preseason choice for American League Rookie of the Year honors. Steamer and ZiPS both view him very much as a candidate to hit 30 home runs.

3. George Springer, OF, Houston (Profile)

PA BB% K% wOBA BsR WAR
550 9.5% 29.6% .332 1.5 3.0

Despite entirely valid concerns regarding his contact skills, Springer seems to feature enough in the way of other skills so as to compensate for his one conspicuous shortcoming.

3.5. Oscar Taveras, OF, St. Louis (Profile)

PA BB% K% wOBA BsR WAR
550 5.6% 12.4% .330 0.3 2.5

The author, an imbecile, neglected to include Oscar Taveras in the first edition of this post. Here is now, however, with a very strong projection.

4. Xander Bogaerts, 3B/SS, Boston (Profile)

PA BB% K% wOBA BsR WAR
550 7.8% 21.7% .330 -0.4 2.4

Only five qualified players deployed predominantly as shortstops in 2013 recorded a wRC+ of 100 or better — i.e. a thing which Bogaerts is projected to do in 2014.

5. Robert Kral, C, San Diego (Profile)

PA BB% K% wOBA BsR WAR
415 10.9% 18.9% .317 -0.1 2.4*

By far the most obscure player among these top 10, Kral is projected as a catcher, but has actually split time between there and first base over the last two seasons. The unforgiving positional adjustment of the latter position, if accounted for, would likely deflate Kral’s overall projection. Still, he’s demonstrated some offensive skills — suggesting that, were he capable of playing catcher, he’d be a pretty valuable asset to his club.

6. Thomas La Stella, 2B, Atlanta (Profile)

PA BB% K% wOBA BsR WAR
550 7.6% 11.5% .328 -0.1 2.4

Nearly useful research by the author suggests that prospects noted for their ability to hit for average and discern balls from strikes are more likely to become productive major leaguers than prospects noted for other tools/skills. These are precisely the attributes for which La Stella is noted.

7. Miguel Sano, 3B, Minnesota (Profile)

PA BB% K% wOBA BsR WAR
550 8.8% 31.5% .326 -0.2 2.2

Were one looking to make the argument that life is a Wasteland of Cruelty, the season-ending injury to Miguel Sano might be useful so far as “supporting evidence” is concerned.

8. Kevin Gausman, RHP, Baltimore (Profile)

IP K/9 BB/9 HR/9 FIP WAR
150 7.9 2.4 0.99 3.83 2.2

Despite poor figures last season so far as actual, real-live run prevention is concerned, Gausman actually produced a 77 xFIP- in 47.2 innings. Pitching in relief surely helped him in that regard; still, his numbers were satisfactory in a starting capacity, as well.

9. Josmil Pinto, C, Minnesota (Profile)

PA BB% K% wOBA BsR WAR
415 7.5% 19.7% .315 -0.5 2.1

With Joe Mauer’s move to first base, Josmil Pinto might actually be the best catching option in Minnesota. At the moment, however, he appears to be taking the short end of a timeshare with Kurt Suzuki.

10. Matt Barnes, RHP, Boston (Profile)

IP K/9 BB/9 HR/9 FIP WAR
150 8.6 3.8 0.90 4.13 2.0

Barnes recorded just a 4.33 ERA in 108.0 innings last year at Double-A Portland, but also approached a 30% strikeout rate and was victimized by a .357 BABIP. Provided he works through some spring shoulder soreness, he’s likely to succeed at Triple-A and then probably at the major-league level at some point this season.

11-20

10.5. Kolten Wong, 2B, St. Louis (1.9 WAR)
11. Travis d’Arnaud, C, New York NL (1.9 WAR)
12. Joc Pederson, OF, Los Angeles NL (1.9 WAR)
13. Javier Baez, SS, Chicago NL (1.8 WAR)
14. Nick Castellanos, 3B/OF, Detroit (1.8 WAR)
15. Edwar Cabrera, LHP, Texas (1.8 WAR*)
16. Marcus Stroman, RHP, Toronto (1.8 WAR)
17. Maikel Franco, 3B, Philadelphia (1.8 WAR)
18. Garin Cecchini, 3B, Boston (1.8 WAR)
19. Max Stassi, C, Houston (1.7 WAR)
20. Hak-Ju Lee, SS, Tampa Bay (1.7 WAR)

The left-handed Cabrera missed the entirety of the 2013 season with an arm injury, but recorded excellent strikeout numbers — largely by means of a plus changeup — as minor-leaguer before that.

21-30

21. Jackie Bradley Jr, OF, Boston (1.7 WAR)
22. Yordano Ventura, RHP, Kansas City (1.7 WAR)
23. Taijuan Walker, RHP, Seattle (1.7 WAR)
24. Jose Pirela, 2B/SS, New York AL (1.6 WAR*)
25. Michael Choice, OF, Texas (1.6 WAR)
26. Danny Hultzen, LHP, Seattle (1.6 WAR)
27. Noah Syndergaard, RHP, New York NL (1.6 WAR)
28. Marcus Semien, 2B/3B, Chicago AL (1.5 WAR)
29. Billy Hamilton, OF, Cincinnati (1.5 WAR)
30. Gregory Polanco, OF, Pittsburgh (1.5 WAR)

Pirela is the sort of player who’s likely to be regarded more highly by a projection system than by anyone relying more heavily on scouting-type information, insofar as (a) much of his offensive value is derived from controlling the strike zone and (b) he’s probably not as solid a defender as his his minor-league positioning would suggest.

31-40

31. Addison Russell, SS, Oakland (1.5 WAR)
32. Jeremy Rodriguez, C, San Diego (1.5 WAR*)
33. Edwin Escobar, LHP, San Francisco (1.4 WAR)
34. Kyle Zimmer, RHP, Kansas City (1.4 WAR)
35. Arismendy Alcantara, 2B/SS, Chicago NL (1.4 WAR)
36. Christian Vazquez, C, Boston (1.4 WAR)
37. Greg Garcia, 2B/SS, St. Louis (1.4 WAR)
38. Chris Taylor, SS, Seattle (1.4 WAR)
39. Matt Davidson, 3B, Chicago AL (1.4 WAR)
39.5. Rafael Montero, RHP, New York NL (1.4 WAR)
40. Chris Owings, SS, Arizona (1.4 WAR)

Rodriguez has recorded only 367 plate appearances during his three seasons as professional — almost all of them below Double-A. Entering his age-24 season, he’s been assigned once again to the High-A California League. In other words, this appears to be a moment where Steamer is very enthusiastic about plate-discipline figures and positional adjustment (which, even with the playing-time discount, is quite generous for catchers).

41-50

41. Francisco Lindor, SS, Cleveland (1.4 WAR)
42. Eury Perez, OF, Washington (1.4 WAR)
43. Allen Webster, RHP, Boston (1.3 WAR)
44. Curt Casali, C, Tampa Bay (1.3 WAR)
45. Gary Sanchez, C, New York AL (1.3 WAR)
46. Craig Manuel, C, Washington (1.3 WAR*)
47. Ty Kelly, 2B/3B, Seattle (1.3 WAR)
48. Vince Belnome, 2B, Tampa Bay (1.3 WAR)
49. Roberto Osuna, RHP, Toronto (1.3 WAR)
50. Henry Owens, LHP, Boston (1.3 WAR)

Like Robert Kral and Jeremy Rodriguez above, both Casali and Manuel are catchers whose main offensive assets are related to plate discipline/contact. Kelly and Belnome are those same sorts of players, except in the infield.



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Carson Cistulli has just published a book of aphorisms called Spirited Ejaculations of a New Enthusiast.


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dlb223
Member
dlb223
2 years 3 months ago

I went to high school with Robert Kral and have been trying to find decent info on him for years. Thanks!

Garrett's Mom
Guest
Garrett's Mom
2 years 3 months ago

thats weird.

Steve Buschemi in Billy Madison
Guest
Steve Buschemi in Billy Madison
2 years 3 months ago

No it’s not.

billy
Guest
billy
2 years 2 months ago

Thank God I called THAT ^ guy….

Max
Guest
Max
2 years 3 months ago

>Owings that low

he’s hitting like a beast right now watch out Fangraphs

Value arb
Guest
Value arb
2 years 3 months ago

.962 OPS in 14 PAs. Didi Gregorious, started 2013 w/32 PAs of 1.330 OPS, that’s beastly, Owings is a mere bunny by comparison.

everdiso
Member
everdiso
2 years 3 months ago

Cool list, just wanted to calculate where 23yr old Drew Hutchison fit in, because he only went over the rookie cutoff by 8.2ip before getting TJ.

Steam: 1.57war/150
ZIPS: 1.26war/150

AVG: 1.41war/150

Would put him in the 35-40 range.

jskelly4
Member
jskelly4
2 years 3 months ago

Same question about Rafael Montero

zips 138 IP = 1.5 -> 1.6
steamer 25 IP = .2 -> 1.2
Average = 1.4

proposition joe
Guest
proposition joe
2 years 3 months ago

No Buxton?

louis
Guest
louis
2 years 3 months ago

No Oscar Taveras?

A Cardinals Fan
Guest
A Cardinals Fan
2 years 3 months ago

I must be missing something, because I don’t see why Kolten Wong isn’t on the list.

ZiPs: 2.2 WAR
Steamer: 1.4 WAR

What am I missing?

Los
Guest
Los
2 years 3 months ago

Wow, stemer hates Polanco while Zips loves him. Hoping for Zips here.

BranchRickey11937
Guest
BranchRickey11937
2 years 3 months ago

louis beat me to that question. Oliver has Taveras at 3.5 over a full season, but ZiPS has him at maybe a more realistic 1.8 over 388 PAs. Steamer, in contrast, gives him only 68 PAs in 2014. Maybe Steamer knows something about his hamstring the rest of us don’t. Going with Oliver as a rough midpoint, he should rank comparable to Javier Baez for a 2014 contribution, which seems about right.

coreyjro
Member
coreyjro
2 years 3 months ago

Josmil Pinto’s projected 415 innings pitched seems a bit high to me.

Gingivitis
Guest
Gingivitis
2 years 3 months ago

No Schoop?

Aaron Trammell
Guest
Aaron Trammell
2 years 3 months ago

Wow, pretty exciting for a Braves fan to see LaStella mentioned in the same article as Bogaerts and Oscar Taveras.

Matty Brown
Member
Member
Matty Brown
2 years 3 months ago

I think Josmil Pinto should give up pitching with that astonishing 19.7 bb/9.

Rod
Guest
2 years 3 months ago

No Archie Bradley?

JCCfromDC
Guest
JCCfromDC
2 years 3 months ago

Craig Manuel? I’m a Nats fan with a reasonable knowledge of their farm system and I had to go look him up. He’s not on the BA Top 20 for the Nationals, and only has four games at High A (he’s slated to start at A Ball again this year). I’m … um … impressed(?) at your system that has him ready to produce at 1.3 WAR for 2014. Heck, I think that Pedro Severino is a better catching prospect in the Nats system – and possibly Sandy Leon, just called up to back up Lobaton until Ramos is healthy, as well. Jhonatan Solano is also on the Nats’ 40 man roster, but is essentially organizational depth IMHO.

But Manuel? Really?

vonstott
Member
vonstott
2 years 3 months ago

He’s clearly better than Buxton. Steamer might be accurately named.

Kyle
Guest
Kyle
2 years 3 months ago

Archie Bradley?

Brian
Guest
Brian
2 years 3 months ago

How close did Kris Bryant come to making the cut?

Radivel
Guest
Radivel
2 years 3 months ago

Drew Hutchinson looks like a pretty good bet for the Jays this year. Too bad he had 58IP… so close.

Big in Japan
Guest
Big in Japan
2 years 3 months ago

I think you skipped Randall Grichuk as well.

KS
Guest
KS
2 years 3 months ago

You missed Jonathan Schoop, 1.4 WAR according to Zips.

Nick
Guest
Nick
2 years 3 months ago

Tyler Skaggs?

JasonBVT
Guest
JasonBVT
2 years 3 months ago

So…unless things go horribly, horribly wrong for the Red Sox Matt Barnes won’t be throwing a single pitch in MLB this season. He’s not on the 40 man roster which puts him behind: Capuano, Workman, Wright (when he returns), Webster, De La Rosa, Ranaudo and even Drake Britton were the situation warranted.

I’m glad his projection is so rosy, but ’tis not likely to occur.

TKDC
Guest
TKDC
2 years 3 months ago

Would be interesting to see a top 10 list of unsigned veteran players (retired or otherwise) by projected WAR.

Coodle
Guest
Coodle
2 years 3 months ago

One assumes that injured 18 year old pitcher Roberto Osuna will probably fall short of this projection.

Dick Schofield
Member
Dick Schofield
2 years 3 months ago

No Daily Notes? I was told that you like to be seen and heard.

Matt
Guest
Matt
2 years 3 months ago

Matt Barnes will also pick up several WS for the Clippers this year so that should be added to his WAR total somehow.

ReuschelCakes
Guest
ReuschelCakes
2 years 3 months ago

you missed Mike Trout

Dreamin
Guest
Dreamin
2 years 3 months ago

Give me the over on Chris Owings

Value arb
Guest
Value arb
2 years 3 months ago

Nothing says breakout candidate like a .320 minor league OBP. Heard Towers said he was next Jeter.

catzindogz
Guest
catzindogz
2 years 3 months ago

Trout hasn’t been a “prospect” for a couple of years now

68FC
Member
68FC
2 years 3 months ago

James Paxton?

Garrett's Mom
Guest
Garrett's Mom
2 years 3 months ago

How many wins am I projected for?

abarr
Guest
abarr
2 years 3 months ago

Hmm…Danny Hultzen is out for the season with shoulder surgery so perhaps he should be replaced on the list?

Jg941
Guest
Jg941
2 years 3 months ago

Carson, perfect story for you to post tomorrow – Bob Davidson’s (at it again!!!) wildly-bad strike zone in tonight’s Pirates-Cubs game – perfect multiple-gif material!

Also Bob calling a fouled ball on Starling Marte – there , however, both he an New York got it clearly wrong per all replays, despite the now longest review in MLB history :-)

This has Carson Cistulli written all over it!

Ben
Guest
Ben
2 years 3 months ago

Marlins lefty Andrew Heaney?

Dan Ugglas Forearm
Member
Dan Ugglas Forearm
2 years 3 months ago

I was expecting to see Christian Bethancourt here, but it looks like Steamer doesn’t like his defense, somehow. Only a 1.1 DEF by Steamer, while ZiPS and Oliver are at 14.4 and 12.0, yielding WARs of 1.8 and 1.9.

mherr
Member
mherr
2 years 3 months ago

I’m surprised that the “apepars” typo has remained in the text this long (in the text following the 31-40 list).

Swfcdan
Guest
Swfcdan
2 years 3 months ago

So why are Sano and Hultz still on this list?

Oliver
Guest
Oliver
2 years 3 months ago

Not to mention Osuna…

JMS
Guest
JMS
2 years 3 months ago

I may be calculating incorrectly, but Tommy La Stella prorates to 2.39 war via steamer and 2.47 via zips.

JMS
Guest
JMS
2 years 3 months ago

Delete please, I’m poor at list reading.

Bobby Bonilla's Mother
Guest
Bobby Bonilla's Mother
2 years 3 months ago

Most of the “repliers” on this thread are great with typos. The main problem seems to be comprehension.

DeerLakeJens
Guest
DeerLakeJens
2 years 3 months ago

James Paxson needs to replace Hulzen. Paxson is more than special.

DShea
Guest
DShea
2 years 3 months ago

It would be cool if you would add age to the table/list

cnote66
Member
cnote66
2 years 3 months ago

Edwar Cabrera — wasn’t he released from TEX 40-man?

Rob
Guest
Rob
2 years 3 months ago

A Sanchez SP Toronto or Almonte OF Seattle?

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