Welcome to the regularly updated Top 50 Impact Rookies for 2014. This ranking tool grades freshman players based on their projected MLB impacts for 2014 so it will vary significantly from typical Top 50 or 100 prospects lists.
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April 10: With Boston’s decision not to resign veteran shortstop Stephen Drew, Bogaerts was handed the starting shortstop gig in Boston at the age of 21. The regular playing time — as well as his advanced feeling for hitting — makes him an early favorite for the Rookie of the Year award in the American League (along with the Yankee’s Japanese import Masahiro Tanaka).
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April 10: The Tigers’ veteran-laden lineup allows the organization to ease the young Castellanos into his first full big league season. There aren’t many questions surrounding his bat (other than perhaps the power tool) but his defense at the hot corner remains a concern — especially considering he spent more than a year playing in the outfield.
April 10: Abreu, a Cuba native, entered the 2014 season with a lot of question marks given his lack of track record in North America. A solid spring and respectable start to the MLB season has helped to alleviate some of those concerns.
April 10: Walker has a chance to be a key contributor to the Mariners’ 2014 season but he has to first shake the shoulder woes that have plagued him early in the year.
April 10: A lot of young pitchers have been bitten by the injury bug early on in 2014 but Bradley has so far been able to avoid the curse. Just 21 years old and pitching in Triple-A, the Oklahoma native could be in the Diamondbacks big league rotation before the all-star break.
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April 10: The organization has some interesting catching depth in terms of second- and third-string catchers but there are no true threats to d’Arnaud’s starting backstop gig. Now, all he has to do is stay healthy — which has been easier said than done during his minor league career.
April 10: Taveras continues to be haunted by the fallout over an ankle injury that he suffered in 2013. The young outfielder will continue to polish his game at the Triple-A level while waiting for an injury (or another move) to open up an opportunity for him in The Show. The majority of St. Louis’ power comes from the right side of the plate so Taveras should be a welcomed addition.
April 10: Baltimore’s addition of veteran free agent starter Ubaldo Jimenez ensured that Gausman would open the 2014 season in the minors where he serves as excellent injury insurance. It should only be a matter of time before the young hurler is sitting atop the Orioles’ starting rotation.
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April 10: Bradley was already optioned to Triple-A when an injury sent veteran outfielder Shane Victorino to the disabled list, and created a 25-man roster spot for the freshman on opening day. He’ll have to continue swinging an incredibly hot bat to avoid being demoted when the Flyin’ Hawaiian returns from the infirmary.
April 10: The 2012 R.A. Dickey trade continues to look worse for the Blue Jays with each passing day thanks to the continued emergence of Syndergaard. The 38th overall selection from the 2010 amateur draft — who won’t turn 22 until August — opened the 2014 season in Triple-A and should reach the Majors no later than the second half of the year.
April 10: With the injury to Taijuan Walker, Paxton becomes the Mariners most intriguing young starter at the beginning of 2014. The Canadian southpaw can be down right dominant when he’s consistently commanding the ball and he has the frame to be a durable workhorse. Paxton looked extremely strong during his first two big league starts of the 2014 season but he then hit the disabled list with a lat strain.
April 10: The slight-of-frame Ventura adds some youth to a veteran-heavy starting rotation in Kansas City, which also features four 30+ year old arms. The young hurler can tickle triple digits with his heater but his pitcher’s frame hints at a potential lack of durability over the long haul.
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April 10: When spring training opened, young defensive whiz Didi Gregorius appeared to be the favorite to open the year as the big league club’s starting shortstop. Owings’ potential at the plate, though, proved to be too hard to ignore and the former was sent to Triple-A. The biggest concern with the latter is his aggressive nature, which could lead to a dependence on his batting average to pad his on-base percentage.
April 10: It wasn’t a huge surprise to see Martinez break camp with the Cardinals but it was somewhat of a shock to see him lose out on a starting gig in favor of Joe Kelly. The young Dominican arm has the talent to eventually develop into a shutdown, ninth-inning arm… or a No. 2 starter if he finds his way back to the starting rotation.
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April 10: The Reds announced during the offseason that Hamilton was the favorite to open the 2014 season as the club’s starting center-fielder. The front office failed to attract a better option so the speedster was installed in the lineup. Unfortunately, he has struggled with the bat (as expected). Despite that, his legs remain a dangerous weapon.
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April 10: Wong beat out veteran second baseman Mark Ellis for the starting role at second base in St. Louis thanks to a solid spring performance. The 23-year-old Hawaii native may need a little more polish against southpaws before he realizes his full potential.
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April 10: Former first round draft pick Gordon Beckham continues to fall out of favor in Chicago, which is to the benefit of Semien — who can play multiple infield positions. The White Sox big league club has an intriguing mix of young players on the 25-man roster — which is all the more impressive considering how poorly ranked the minor league system has been over the past few years.
April 10: There is a fairly significant divide in opinions about Stroman’s future at the big league level. Some see the 5-9 hurler as a future starter while others see a future high-leverage reliever due to concerns over his lack of pitch plane and possible injury risk. I personally fall into the latter category.
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April 10: Acquired in the offseason from the Arizona Diamondbacks, Davidson was an early favorite to win the starting third base gig to open the year but he lost out to incumbent Conor Gillaspie. A strong showing in Triple-A by the rookie coupled with continued modest offensive outputs by the big league regular could cause a shift at the hot corner in the second half of the year.
April 10: A lot of Houston fans really wanted to see Spring on the opening day roster but the cautious approach is probably the correct approach. Although he slugged 37 home runs between Double-A and Triple-A in 2013, his strikeout rate of more than 26% suggests he has some holes to close before he becomes an impact bat in The Show so there is no point in burning his service time.
April 10: The White Sox are well represented on this list and Johnson has the potential to be the most impactful freshman arm on the club in 2014. The right-hander has solid present stuff and a durable frame that should allow him to shoulder a lot of innings.
April 10: The Rays’ starting rotation has been infested with elbow injuries, which creates a great opportunity for Odorizzi to establish himself as a big league hurler. He’s a little overhyped, though, and is more of a solid No. 4 starter than a true top-of-the-rotation arm.
April 10: Colorado has two young, high-ceiling arms in the minors with Butler and 2013 No. 1 draft pick Jonathan Gray. However, I personally give the edge to the former due to his nasty stuff and ability to keep the ball down in the zone, which creates a higher ground-ball rate than the latter hurler with stronger fly-ball tendencies — something that’s magnified when pitching half your games in Colorado.
April 10: The Royals already have one high-ceiling arm in their starting rotation with Yordano Ventura but a cautious approach to Zimmer’s development (borne out of injury woes) will all but ensure he’s not wearing a big league uniform until the second half of the 2014 season at the earliest.
April 10: Fellow infield prospect Javier Baez gets all the love from prospect watchers but Alcantara could turn out to be the better player in 2014 as he’s a little more polished and consistent. Chicago will no doubt struggle to find big league playing time for all its young infield talent but it’s a very good problem to have from the team’s perspective.
April 10: One of the biggest breakout prospects from 2013, Polanco lacks a clear path to a permanent big league job in 2014. With that said, another slow start by former No. 1 draft pick Travis Snider could open up a spot for the talented prospect who will bide his time in Triple-A.
April 10: Nelson is a big, strong hurler who projects to develop into a solid mid-rotation starter. However, the addition of free agent hurler Matt Garza helped to ensure that the young right-hander would open the year in Triple-A to serve as organizational depth in the event of an injury.
April 10: The left-handed Heaney will soon be ready to join fellow talented young hurler Jose Fernandez in the Marlins’ rotation. With limited experience above Double-A, though, the Oklahoma native will likely spend the first half of the year in the minors.
April 10: Despite a breakout 2013 campaign and the added ability to play first base (as well as third), Franco has no clear path to the Majors thanks to the presence of veteran Ryan Howard (and his contract) at first base and fellow young player Cody Asche at the hot corner. He’ll continue to polish his game at the Triple-A level.
April 10: The third overall selection in the 2013 draft, Gray was assigned to Double-A to open the ’14 season — along with fellow Top 50 prospect and teammate Eddie Butler. The Oklahoma native has the ceiling of a No. 2 starter if he can find a way to survive pitching in Colorado.
April 10: Baez didn’t turn 21 until last December but he was assigned to Triple-A to open the 2014 season. Despite his experience, the Puerto Rico native is coming off of a season that saw him slug 37 home runs between High-A and Double-A. The biggest concerns with Baez are his future defensive home (likely shortstop or third base) and his high strikeout rate (more than 25% in 2013).
April 10: Finally healthy after missing two full seasons (2012-13), Vizcaino is being eased back into game action with an assignment to high-A ball. The hard-thrower is also pitching out of the bullpen after spending most of his career in the starting rotation and it will be interesting to see if he remains in his new role for a long term.
April 10: Piscotty’s strong spring may have helped him leapfrog over top Cardinals prospect Oscar Taveras on the outfield depth chart. With that said, the latter prospect has a higher overall ceiling while the former is more polished than expected. A converted infielder, Piscotty is off to a strong start with the bat in Triple-A.
April 10: Noah Syndergaard gets the majority of the prospect love from New York fans but Montero has a lot of promise too. The Dominican native isn’t electric as his prospect-mate but he has solid stuff and above average command/control. He’ll bide his time in Triple-A.
April 10: Buxton could not have had a better 2013 season in high-A ball. The top prospect in baseball entered the 2014 on a fast track to the Majors but a wrist injury suffered during spring training but the brakes on his rapid ascent. Once he’s healthy, the Georgia native should be assigned to Double-A.
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April 10: Schoop was a surprise addition to Baltimore’s opening day roster. He’s valuable due to his ability to play second base, third base and shortstop. The Orioles’ aggressive development plan for the Curacao native could end up having a negative impact on him, though, since he hasn’t had a dominating stretch with the bat since 2011.
April 10: The second overall pick of the 2013 amateur draft, Bryant was assigned to Double-A to open the 2014 season. Fellow third base prospect Mike Olt was given the opening day assignment at the big league level but his year-plus inability to hit could help hand the job to Bryant sooner rather than later.
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April 10: An offseason trade from Oakland to Texas alleviated some of the depth ahead of Choice, but he still ended up with a club with a strong starting outfield. As a result, he’s been relegated to back-up role in the Majors in 2014.
April 10: Lindor, just 20, was assigned to Double-A to open the 2014 season and he could see the Majors in the second half of the year — especially if incumbent shortstop Asdrubal Cabrera’s bat continues to fall short of expectation. Lindor has a stellar glove and an underrated bat.
April 10: Predominantly a starter in the minors, a lack of consistent command has haunted the fireballer. It all but assures his future will lie in the bullpen at the big league level. Webster could ride the Triple-A/MLB shuttle throughout the 2014 season but he doesn’t currently have a clear path to a permanent big league job in Boston.
April 10: The trade of former closer Addison Reed to Arizona during the offseason left a hole at the back end of the White Sox bullpen. It was supposed to be filled by Nate Jones but the powerful arm hit the disabled list with a hip injury. There are still a lot of hard-throwing arms in the bullpen but Webb remains a candidate to see some save opportunities.
April 10: LA fans had visions of sugar plums and Yasiel Puigs dancing in their heads when the Dodgers won the bidding for free agent Guerrero, a Cuba native. Unfortunately, he’s not nearly has polished as Puig was — nor is his bat as potent. He’ll spend some time in the minors while the Dodgers try and figure out what exactly they have in Guerrero.
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April 10: A former Yankees farmhand, the switch-hitting Almonte has been given an opportunity to play regularly. He has some defensive skills and can play center field but his value at the play is tied mostly to his ability to hit for average because he doesn’t hit many home runs and hasn’t been an overly prolific base runner at the big league level.
April 10: Acquired two winters ago during the Mark Buehrle/Jose Reyes deal with Toronto, Nicolino isn’t flashy and doesn’t light up the radar gun but he has an advanced feel for pitching and above-average control. Currently pitching in Double-A, the lefty is one of a few arms that could be ready to contribute in the second half of the year.
April 10: The Astros club has a few high-ceiling players that could be ready to contribute to the big league club at some point in 2014. Singleton was assigned to Triple-A to open the year but he has to make up for lost time incurred due to a 2013 suspension. He hasn’t hit overly well since returning to game action.
April 10: The Phillies organization has suffered through some serious injuries to key pitching prospects over the past few months but Biddle — the club’s best — remains healthy but inconsistent. The lefty has solid stuff but inconsistent command and needs to add some polish before he’s entrusted with a key role in The Show.
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April 10: An .887 OPS helped to breathe some life into Flores prospect value in 2013 but some of that came as a result of playing in the potent Pacific Coast League. Questions remain about both his offensive potential and his future defensive home. His inability to unseat incumbent shortstop Ruben Tejada (who has been in New York’s doghouse all year) speaks to the unlikelihood of Flores regularly playing shortstop in the Majors.
April 10: A little known prospect prior to the spring, Elias secured a starting rotation gig as the Mariners’ promising young arms dropped like flies and landed on the disabled list. The Cuba native isn’t flashy but he mixes his pitches well and has been durable over the past two seasons. And it doesn’t hurt that he’s left handed.
April 10: Hale isn’t flashy due to his pitch-to-contact tendencies and he possesses a modest ceiling but Atlanta’s bad luck on the injury front will ensure that the Princeton alum receives an extended look in the starting rotation. He’s probably better suited to a middle- or long-relief role.
April 10: Along with Roenis Elias, Solarte may have been the least recognizable name on this list at the beginning of spring training. A long-time Minnesota Twins farmhand, he’s been one of the better hitters in the Majors early on in 2014 but he doesn’t profile overly well at the hot corner long term due to his lack of power.
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