Who’s The No. 1 Prospect?: June Edition

Entering May, Minnesota Twins Byron Buxton was my favorite to seize the label of number one prospect in baseball entering 2014. Diamondbacks pitcher Archie Bradley ranked second as he pushed through High-A and finished April in the Southern League. Shortstop Francisco Lindor of the Cleveland Indians debuted in the third spot after a dominant month offensively. Twins’ Miguel Sano, claimed the fourth spot, as well as the label of best power hitting prospect in the game. Rounding out the top five was Boston Red Sox prospect Xander Bogaerts, who received a partial mulligan for a weak April due to his being the highest rated prospect in baseball entering 2013 not expected to surpass rookie at bats/innings pitched limits.

Remember, May’s edition broke down the anatomy of the number-one prospect. If you need a refresher, or are new to this series, it’s a great starting point. This month, “Opening Acts” will include players deserving of top-five consideration. “Headliners” will feature last month’s top five and what they have, or have not done to stay there.

Opening Acts (listed alphabetically)

Carlos Correa (SS-HOU) – With a May line of .338/.418/.425 including a 11/11 strikeout to walk ratio, Correa is showing command of the strike zone beyond his years. His .183 average with the bases empty versus .409 with runners on base makes me to wonder if the 18-year old is having difficulty maintaining focus. If this is the case, then experience and maturity will lead to a spike in offensive production.

Kevin Gausman (P-BAL) – Readers questioned my exclusion of Gausman from May’s list, and he was honestly the odd man out after the decision was made to discuss the Mets’ dilemma with Zack Wheeler. This month, I still don’t consider Gausman one of the top five prospects in baseball, but wanted to come to his defense after a couple of poor starts in Baltimore.

On paper, there’s really no way to spin his first two starts in a positive light. However, Gausman taking his lumps now will lead to better results later on. As prospect followers, it’s easy to view a 49/5 strikeout-to-walk ratio in Double-A as a sign of pending greatness. And while those numbers are impressive, Gausman’s tendency to elevate his fastball was going to cause him problems at the major league level. It’s likely the reason why he’d allowed nearly a hit per inning in the Eastern League as well. The pure stuff is there for Gausman to become a force with additional refinement. These things take time. Of course, if Gausman remains in Baltimore for the remainder of the season, he won’t qualify for prospect lists next year.

Yasiel Puig (OF-LAD) – With a .315/.400/.596 May, Dodgers outfield prospect Yasiel Puig continues to dominate Double-A competition. More impressive than his combination of speed and power has been Puig’s ability to limit strikeout totals while learning to handle offspeed pitches on the outer half. He’s a star in the making, but Joc Pederson may be the first to receive the call to Los Angeles because of his ability to play center field. Puig will eventually displace Andre Ethier or Carl Crawford, forcing Los Angeles to shed a productive veteran, but I’m not sure it happens in 2013.

Taijuan Walker (P-SEA) – In five May Starts, Walker has halved his walk total from April while maintaining an impressive strikeout rate. However, some of those walks have turned into hits, redistributing his WHIP instead of lowering it. And while his ERA for the month was up more than two runs from his 1.55 April, his peripherals were more conducive to long-term success.

Christian Yelich (OF-MIA) – Yelich was having an excellent May before his production fell off a cliff. Overall, his .262/.361/.583 line for the month is impressive considering the 21-year-old’s power is often brought into question. His streaky start leaves Yelich on the periphery of the top five, but a strong June may be enough to force inclusion. Additionally, the promotions of Jose Fernandez and Marcell Ozuna have me thinking that Yelich may not be prospect eligible next spring.

I’m also of the impression that the Cardinals’ Oscar Taveras will receive enough at bats at the major league level to lose rookie eligibility for 2014. If he has zero big league plate appearances at the end of June, then it will be time to reevaluate.

Headliners (listed in reverse order of last month’s top five)

Xander Bogaerts (SS-BOS) – After a disappointing April, Bogaerts has rebounded to post a triple-slash line of .276/.371/.510 in May. In his last ten games, the Red Sox prospect has been even better. What’s interesting about his season from a statistical standpoint is his having five stolen bases and triples in the early going. Is he adding speed to the profile? If so, then this is a positive development and will only help him stick at shortstop defensively.

Miguel Sano (3B-MIN) – Miguel Sano had nowhere to go but down after an all-world April. In May, his .307/.430/.545 triple-slash line is still awfully impressive for a player who recently celebrated his 20th birthday. Prospect followers are already clamoring for a promotion, but the Twins are likely to take it slow with Sano. The third baseman still strikes out too much, but the fact his rates have come down each season is a positive sign he’ll be able to maintain, if not improve them even more.

Francisco Lindor (SS-CLE) – With a .287/.368/.376 May, Francisco Lindor continues to find success in High-A. Compared to last season, the 19-year-old increased both his speed and power production. At his current pace, Lindor has a legitimate chance of surpassing both his extra base hit and stolen base totals from 2012 by the end of July. This, while maintaining elite defense at the shortstop position.

Archie Bradley (P-ARI) – In six May starts, Bradley has dissected Double-A hitters to the tune of a 0.79 ERA. With 37 strikeouts and 22 hits allowed in 34 innings pitched, the right-hander has cemented his status as the best pitching prospect in baseball for me. My brief glimpse at him in Chattanooga earlier in the month included Bradley striking out Puig looking with a mid-90’s fastball on the inner half. Just as he was settling into the flow of the game, an ill-timed slide into second base led to Bradley being removed for precautionary reasons.

Byron Buxton (OF-MIN) – Like organization-mate Miguel Sano, Buxton’s production had to come back to earth after a dominant April. A .298/.386/.465 May, including 16 steals, was the result. At 19, it was another fantastic month for the center fielder, who has been nothing short of magnificent. With seven home runs and 25 steals overall, can Buxton produce a 20 home run, 60 steal season? If he remains in Single-A, yes, but it will be difficult to keep him from the Florida State League given his level of dominance.

Blame it on the ongoing excellence by the “headliners,” or the ups and downs of the “opening acts,” but my projected top five for 2014 remains unchanged as we head into June. Bradley’s continued dominance at the upper levels is certainly worthy of the top spot, but my temptation to swap him and Buxton is offset by my appreciation for five tool talents. A shakeup may come in July should Taveras remain in Triple-A and/or if Orioles Dylan Bundy return from injury, but for now, Buxton stays on top.



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Mike Newman is the Owner/Managing Editor ofROTOscouting, a subscription site focused on baseball scouting, baseball prospects and fantasy baseball. Follow me onTwitter. Likeus on Facebook.Subscribeto my YouTube Channel.


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rbt
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rbt
3 years 3 months ago

Is Wil Myers no longer considered a top prospect?

Kevin
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Kevin
3 years 3 months ago

I’m interested in this answer too, but I assume it’s the same thing w/ Taveras. The assumption is that he’ll get enough ABs this year to lose his rookie status.

redsoxu571
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redsoxu571
3 years 3 months ago

Glad you asked guys…the author clarifies in the introduction that this is a projection for who will be the top prospect in baseball entering 2014, so anyone projected to use up rookie eligibility this year won’t make the list (hence knocking off Taveras and Myers).

Brad Johnson
Member
Member
3 years 3 months ago

Mike, you may want to read Jeff’s piece today RE: Carlos Correa’s average with bases empty. http://www.fangraphs.com/blogs/understanding-your-patterns/

Ty Cobb
Member
Ty Cobb
3 years 3 months ago

If Sano is actually 22, how much polish does that remove? No doubt the power is legit, but playing against younger kids and K’ing at a near 28% rate? Suspect

payroll
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payroll
3 years 3 months ago

Watch Pelotero. The kid had bone samples taken out and tested. He’s 20.

grundlock_3rd
Member
3 years 3 months ago

i’m interested to hear why mike thinks taveras will lose rookie eligibility this year. sure, injuries may strike, but ironically, taveras is the cards outfielder nursing injuries so far. even if beltran goes down, would it be crazy if they shift craig to OF and plug adams in at first?

Anon
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Anon
3 years 3 months ago

I agree with this.

Also, Mike said, “ If he has zero big league plate appearances at the end of June, then it will be time to reevaluate.

I don’t see why Mike thinks the next month will make a huge difference (particularly with OT’s current injury situation.

lars
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lars
3 years 3 months ago

Tavares has been playing center and will likely replace Jay

Donald Trump
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Donald Trump
3 years 3 months ago

Billy Hamilton?

Brad Johnson
Member
Member
3 years 3 months ago

I don’t see too many people considering him a top talent at this point, especially given his tepid results thus far.

Put simply, if Hamilton was a true top 5 prospect, he wouldn’t be in the minors anymore. The Reds desperately need a CFer yesterday.

Edgar Martinez
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Edgar Martinez
3 years 3 months ago

We should definitely trust that the teams know what they’re doing when they leave a guy in the minors.

Ian
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Ian
3 years 3 months ago

He has a .691 OPS in May. I think he’s far more likely to fall down the prospect rankings than to go up to #1.

Cliff
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Cliff
3 years 3 months ago

While I agree with the sentiment of what you’re trying to convey here, I don’t think is really fair to point at his OPS as a justification for how well/poorly he did in May. In my estimation, he actually had a great month, mainly because of improvements made at the plate. He hit .280 with 12/22 BB/K, which for a slap hitter whose only 22 in AAA, shows at least above average plate discipline IMO. And despite the slow April start, he’s still got a 162-game pace of 97-100 steals. He’s never gonna hit prolly more than 5 HR in any season, and his OPS will almost always struggle to reach .700+. Still, if he can keep his OBP(which is a much more pertinent stat to him as a player than OPS) in the .325-.350 range, I think he could steal 75 in the bigs.

Balthazar
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Balthazar
3 years 4 months ago

I don’t see Hamilton hitting enough in the majors to start. Maybe not hitting enough to hold onto a roster spot. Seriously, he has one tool, and it’s not the hit one. His emphasis on the SB is laudable, and makes him stand out in an era when guys don’t nab. There were score of guys just like him in the minors in the 80s and 90s; very few of them panned out in the bigs because they consistently got the bat knocked out of their hands by good stuff. Like Billy.

The Reds seriously needed to sign Michael Bourn in the offseason. He was a perfect match for them, and they had their eyes on deep into the post-season with an otherwise full squad. They cheaped out at the wrong moment, seeing Ludwick (!) as a better bet for rounding out the outfield, and spent wa-a-ay too much time trying to get Scott Rolen to come back rather than moving on (and up). The going rate to fill the crater in CF now—no way has Choo _ever_ been a centerfielder, though he can handle a corner spot—will be much more costly to fill now.

Pat
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Pat
3 years 3 months ago

What do you think of Jameson Taillon? He seems to be looking more impressive than fellow rotation mate Gerrit Cole and his curveball is something to behold.

reillocity
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reillocity
3 years 3 months ago

Which soon-to-be-draftee would you give the best chance of being your #1 overall prospect heading into 2014? And, yes, you must pick one of them.

CJ
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CJ
3 years 3 months ago

I know he’s not really in the conversation, but George Springer to me looks just as good as Myers. And he has more speed and plays cf! I’m not sure why he doesn’t get any consideration as a top 10 prospect right now.

Duke
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Duke
3 years 3 months ago

Thanks for list. Hard to argue the players and rationale. If it is not to much trouble, who are the next few names considered? Particularly curious if Polanco and Odor were given any thought.

Oasis
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Oasis
3 years 3 months ago

The Nationals don’t seem to want to give Anthony Rendon any more playing time this year …

BenRevereDoesSteroids
Member
BenRevereDoesSteroids
3 years 4 months ago

Someone has to say it. PROFAR.

No, I’m not saying he is going to be a top prospect in 2014. Its just that his name needed to be included in the comment section. Every comment section. On every post. On every website.

Blockhead
Member
Blockhead
3 years 4 months ago

I thought Puig was too immature to be a big leaguer? Why is he on this list? I mean his immaturity from one game warranted an entire piece, must be terrible.

Jeff
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Jeff
3 years 4 months ago

If Jose Fernandez was still a prospect, how would he rank with the likes of Bradley, Walker and Bumdy?

Evan
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Evan
3 years 3 months ago

Do you think Bundy pitches at all this year? The bum elbow has to be worrisome, I really hope it doesn’t turn into TJ that would be a huge bummer. IF he does come back healthy I would put money on him being up with the big club, especially seeing how the Orioles rotation has performed so far.

Todd
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Todd
3 years 3 months ago

How close is Jorge soler to being considered?

Dan Venables
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Dan Venables
3 years 3 months ago

Puigs up guys…and boy does it look like he’ll be a goodun.

Drafted Dahl over him in my offseason prospect draft due to him being a relative unknown, and so unsuprisingly have been regretting it like hell since. Also beaten too him in my non-keeper….but im still looking forward to watching him!

Dan Venables
Guest
Dan Venables
3 years 3 months ago

And is Myers really actually that good? A comparison between Myers and Puig lets say, who do you think’s the better overall fantasy player?

Seems Myers values tied up a lot in the fact he’s got power, and we’ll know he’ll get the call soon. If you compared his other peripherals like K rate with Puig I bet I know who’d come on top.

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