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2014 MLB Prospects: Mike Rosenbaum's Top 50 Update, Winter Edition

Mike RosenbaumMLB Prospects Lead WriterJanuary 9, 2014

2014 MLB Prospects: Mike Rosenbaum's Top 50 Update, Winter Edition

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    Top prospect Byron Buxton will start 2014 at Double-A with the potential to reach the major leagues as a 20-year-old by season's end.
    Top prospect Byron Buxton will start 2014 at Double-A with the potential to reach the major leagues as a 20-year-old by season's end.Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

    Over the last week Prospect Pipeline has been rolling out its team-specific prospect coverage, breaking down the top 10 prospects in every organization and their chances of making an impact at the highest level.

    However, today we’re deviating from the schedule to offer an early look at Major League Baseball’s top prospects for the 2014 season.

    As is the case with all my rankings, any player who’s accrued 130 at-bats or 50 innings in the major leagues no longer qualifies as a prospect. Additionally, I don’t treat international free agents as true prospects—because there’s no benefit in comparing a 26-year-old Cuban defector to an 18-year-old draft pick—so you won’t find Jose Dariel Abreu, Alexander Guerrero or Miguel Gonzalez on this list.

    I also want to emphasize that these are not my official rankings for 2014; any number of scenarios (acquisitions, injuries, trades) between now and the start of the regular season can and will drastically alter the current order.

    Therefore, Prospect Pipeline’s official top 100 prospects for 2014 will be unveiled in late March as spring training winds down and Opening Day roster decisions are announced. So, it’s best to view this list as a tune-up—or my version of spring training—for the next rankings installment.

    Here’s a look at the current top 50 prospects for the 2014 season.


How They're Ranked

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    Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

    Position Players

    • Body type/athleticism
    • Speed
    • Hitting mechanics; bat speed
    • Injury history
    • Statistical trends
    • Age vs. level: How well a player fared at a certain level relative to his age and that of the competition
    • Tools: number of projectable tools a player possesses in relation to his position, age and competition; present vs. future tool grades.
    • Hit tool: In the evolution of the prospect landscape, the hit tool is the most important but also the hardest to project
    • League and park factors
    • On-base skills: Approach; strike-zone management; pitch recognition
    • Makeup/character
    • Place on organization's depth chart
    • Positional scarcity; up-the-middle potential 

     

    Pitchers

    • Body type/athleticism/strength
    • Mechanics: delivery; arm speed; release point
    • Age vs. highest level of experience
    • Injury history (durability)
    • Statistical trends
    • Arsenal quality and depth
    • Pitch projections: present vs. future grades
    • Hittability: How tough is he to barrel? Does he keep the ball on the ground/in the park?
    • Control/Command: Is he usually around the zone? Does he effectively command his stuff? How much development/refinement is needed?
    • Pitchability: Feel (and confidence) for using and sequencing entire arsenal
    • Approach: Does he fearlessly attack and challenge opposing hitters?  
    • Projection: Does he project as a starter? If so, what type? Or is he likely to be relegated to the bullpen? If so, why?

     

    Resources

    • Firsthand scouting
    • Video analysis
    • Industry contacts
    • Statistics

Close Calls...

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    Christian Petersen/Getty Images

    As I mentioned in the introduction, my official preseason rankings for 2014 will be of the top-100 variety and unveiled in mid- to late March. However, I thought I’d offer quick look at 10 players (technically ranked 51-60) that narrowly missed a top-50 ranking:

    51. Kohl Stewart, RHP, Minnesota Twins

    52. Mike Foltynewicz, RHP, Houston Astros

    53. Chris Owings, SS/2B, Arizona Diamondbacks

    54. Sean Manaea, LHP, Kansas City Royals

    55. J.P. Crawford, SS, Philadelphia Phillies

    56. Alex Gonzalez, RHP, Texas Rangers

    57. Jackie Bradley, OF, Boston Red Sox

    58. Andrew Heaney, LHP, Miami Marlins

    59. Miguel Almonte, RHP, Kansas City Royals

    60. Austin Meadows, OF, Pittsburgh Pirates

50. Henry Owens, LHP, Boston Red Sox

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    Position: LHP

    DOB: 07/21/1992 (Age: 21)

    Height/Weight: 6’6”, 205 pounds

    Bats/Throws: L/L

    Drafted: First round, 2011 (Edison HS, Calif.)

    ETA: Late 2014

    2013 Stats 

     

    Scouting Report

    Highly projectable 6’6” left-hander; Owens repeats his mechanics despite long, lanky frame; stride toward the plate is shorter than expected; stays on line with the plate; creates natural deception; consistent high-three-quarters arm slot; works on a downhill plane.

    Fastball typically sits at 88-92 mph and can be difficult for hitters to pick up out of his hand; features sink when working down in the zone; lacks significant movement; sometimes loses feel for arm angle; changeup is best secondary pitch and projects as a plus offering; thrown in upper 70s with late sink-and-fade to the arm side; curveball flashes average potential, and he’s adept at adding and subtracting when necessary; would like to see him use it to back-foot right-handed hitters more often; good shape when on.

    Ceiling: No. 2 or 3 starter

    Risk: Medium

    2014 Outlook: After six impressive starts at Double-A Portland to conclude his breakthrough 2013 campaign, Owens will return to the level next season and serve as the affiliate’s No. 1 starter, assuming Matt Barnes and Anthony Ranaudo open the year in Triple-A. The Red Sox have no need to rush his development, especially with so many other intriguing arms ahead of him on the organization’s depth chart. However, if Owens can show more sustainable velocity and improve his secondary arsenal, it’s not entirely crazy to think he can reach the major league by season’s end.

     

    Video courtesy of Jason Cole

49. Matt Wisler, RHP, San Diego Padres

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    Position: RHP

    DOB: 09/12/1992 (Age: 21)

    Height/Weight: 6’3”, 195 pounds

    Bats/Throws: R/R

    Drafted: Seventh round, 2011 (Bryan HS, Ohio)

    ETA: Mid-2014

    2013 Stats

     

    Scouting Report

    Still growing into projectable 6’3”, 195-pound frame; good athlete; delivery involves moderate effort; will jerk with upper body and head at times, though it doesn’t impede his ability to throw strikes; will need to be cleaned up a bit; maintains balance and posture; quick arm; stays in line with the plate. 

    Fastball is a present plus in the low to mid-90s; will run it as high as 95-96 mph; lots of late life to the arm side; improving sinking action; pitch flattens out when elevated; lacks consistent downhill plane; has a feel for working both sides of the plate; command projects to be average. 

    Slider is a future plus offering; thrown with excellent depth and pace at 82-87 mph; two-plane breaker; swing-and-miss potential; feel for adding and subtracting; shows confidence in pitch both in and out of the zone; tight spin and sharp bite; still learning to locate against left-handed hitters.

    Changeup is a fringe offering that projects to be at least average at maturity; generates two-seam-like fade and sink in the mid-80s; repeats arm slot well; throws it on the firm side; weapon against left-handed hitters; became more comfortable using it against righties this season; plenty of room to improve; employs a usable mid-70s curveball as his fourth pitch; used sparingly.

    Projection: No. 3 starter

    Risk: Medium

    2014 Outlook: Wisler’s feel for pitching and command of a deep, powerful arsenal has him on the fast track to the major leagues, and he conceivably could debut by midseason with a hot start in Triple-A.

     

    Video courtesy of Jason Cole

48. Joc Pederson, OF, Los Angeles Dodgers

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    Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

    Position: OF

    DOB: 04/21/1992 (Age: 21)

    Height/Weight: 6’1”, 185 pounds

    Bats/Throws: L/L

    Drafted: 11th round, 2010 (Palo Alto HS, Calif.)

    ETA: Late 2014

    2013 Stats 

     

    Scouting Report

    The 21-year-old possesses quiet strength at 6’1”, 185 pounds; showcases an all-around impressive set of tools and athleticism; speed is only average, but his hard-nosed, aggressive mentality makes it play up a grade.

    Has been developed as a center fielder over the past three seasons and may be able to stick there; both his reads and routes have an element of rawness; present athleticism and tremendous work ethic suggest they will continue to improve; above-average arm strength is more than enough for the position and will translate if he moves to a corner spot.

    Continued to hit for power last season outside the California League; average or better power potential; demonstrates mature approach and works hard to put together at-bats; tracks the ball well and fires hands at the last minute; still has room to improve against same-side pitching; bat enters the zone on a nice downward angle, which results in backspin carry to all fields; potential for slightly above-average hit tool thanks to mature plate discipline and line-drive-oriented swing.

    Ceiling: Second-division regular

    Risk: Medium

    2014 Outlook: While the Dodgers outfield is stacked with talent, Pederson’s ability to play all three positions should get him to the major leagues at some point during the 2014 season. And if his game power translates at the highest level, Pederson has the potential to carve out a role as an everyday player.

47. Kolten Wong, 2B, St. Louis Cardinals

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    Eileen Blass-USA TODAY

    Position: 2B

    DOB: 10/10/1990 (Age: 23)

    Height/Weight: 5’9”, 185 pounds

    Bats/Throws: L/R

    Drafted: First round, 2011 (Hawaii)

    ETA: 2014 (Debuted in 2013)

    2013 Stats 

     

    Scouting Report 

    Potential top-of-the-order left-handed bat capable of hitting for average and getting on base; understands the strike zone and drives the ball from line to line with a direct bat path; may need to simplify his load/timing mechanism against major league-caliber secondaries; hit tool projects to be above average, while his power should be good for 10-15 home runs per season; doesn’t possess typical up-the-middle speed but is a smart baserunner; improved jumps and efficiency on the basepaths last season; high baseball IQ allows him to make in-game adjustments, which should aid his success as a major leaguer.

    Defense at second base is big league-ready; never been a big fan of his range at the keystone; compensates with good instincts and a true first step; hands and actions are smooth and consistent; can be weak and tentative to the backhand; lack of arm strength limits him to a career at second base.

    Projection: Second-division regular

    Risk: Low

    2014 Outlook: With Matt Carpenter likely moving to third base following the offseason departure of David Freese, Wong should have every opportunity in spring training to win the Opening Day job.

46. Tyler Glasnow, RHP, Pittsburgh Pirates

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    Position: RHP

    DOB: 08/23/1993 (Age: 20)

    Height/Weight: 6’7”, 195 pounds

    Bats/Throws: L/R

    Drafted: Fifth round, 2011 (Hart HS, Calif.)

    ETA: Late 2016

    2013 Stats

     

    Scouting Report

    The 6’7”, 195-pound right-hander throws fastball on a steep downhill plane; struggles to keep his lanky frame and long limbs in sync during his delivery; velocity spike last season pushed his fastball into the mid-90s; plenty more velocity on the way; curveball can be a hammer with plus potential but is inconsistent at the moment; doesn’t always stay on top and execute pitch; flashes excellent shape; swing-and-miss potential at highest level; future out pitch; changeup is a work in progress offering; showed improved feel over course of 2013 season; command of entire arsenal took a step forward last year in full-season debut, but there’s still a huge gap between the present and future.

    Projection: No. 2 or 3 starter

    Risk: High

    2014 Outlook: After pacing the Low-A South Atlantic League last season in strikeouts (164) and opponent batting average (.142), Glasnow will move up to High-A Bradenton for the 2014 season, where he stands to post more gaudy numbers in the pitcher-friendly Florida State League. The Pirates have no need to rush his development, so expect the young right-hander to spend several years in the minors so as to refine his delivery and secondary arsenal.

45. Lucas Sims, RHP, Atlanta Braves

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    Position: RHP

    DOB: 05/10/1994 (Age: 19)

    Height/Weight: 6’2”, 195 pounds

    Bats/Throws: R/R

    Drafted: First round, 2012 (Brookwood HS, Ga.)

    ETA: Late 2015

    2013 Stats

     

    Scouting Report

    The 6’2” right-hander is athletic with a live arm and little mileage; consistent arm slot and release point; made huge strides in overall development this past season after moving into starting rotation for second half; showcases impressive and underrated blend of stuff and polish; already knows how to pitch at a young age; flashes potential for a four-pitch mix of at least average offerings; pounds the strike zone.

    Lucas Sims’ fastball registers in the low-to-mid-90s range; velocity increased a few ticks along with the weather; good arm-side life to the pitch; curveball is a hammer and swing-and-miss pitch; features big shape and heavy downer action in the upper 70s; showcased a quality slider during professional debut in 2012 but relied on it less this past year; changeup improved significantly this past season; flashes average potential in the low to mid-80s with late sink and fade to the arm side.

    Ceiling: No. 3 starter

    Risk: Medium

    2014 Outlook: Sims has a strong feel for pitching at a young age, and his stuff will continue to improve as he gains experience and builds arm strength. The 19-year-old could start to move quickly in 2014 with a strong start to the season at High-A.

     

    Video courtesy of BullpenBanter.com

44. Clint Frazier, OF, Cleveland Indians

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    Jason Miller/Getty Images

    Position: OF

    DOB: 09/06/1994 (Age: 19)

    Height/Weight: 6’0”, 190 pounds

    Bats/Throws: R/R

    Drafted: First round, 2013 (Loganville HS, Ga.)

    ETA: 2016 

    2013 Stats

     

    Scouting Report

    The 6'0", 190-pounder owned the best bat speed in the 2013 draft class; wrists and forearms are loaded with strong, quick-twitch muscles; compact, explosive swing; drives the ball off of a firm front side; clean, direct bat path; gets off backside and through baseball with ease; aggressive hitter who attacks the ball; potential above-average or better hit tool; can struggle to recognize spin; some swing-and-miss to game.

    Plus-plus raw power potential; advanced power utility; more thump to center and pull side; ball absolutely jumps off the barrel; generates tons of backspin carry; hits everything out in front; keeps head down on contact.

    Above-average runner with quick feet; gets out of the box; speed plays better on the basepaths than in the field; will steal some bases but likely will never be a base stealer. Fringy center field profile; has the athleticism and tools to handle the position as an amateur; takes aggressive routes; may be forced to move to a corner at the next level. Arm fatigue and mild tendinitis have detracted from overall arm strength; merely an average tool at the moment. 

    Projection: First-division outfielder; potential All-Star

    Risk: High

    2014 Outlook: After posting an .868 OPS with 21 extra-base hits in 196 plate appearances last summer in the Rookie-level Arizona League, Frazier should open the 2014 season Low-A Lake County, making his full-season debut as a 19-year-old. It’s inevitable that he’ll endure some slumps and struggle against quality secondary offerings, but Frazier’s robust hitting ability could get him to High-A by season’s end.

43. Julio Urias, LHP, Los Angeles Dodgers

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    Position: LHP

    DOB: 08/12/1996 (Age: 17)

    Height/Weight: 5’11”, 160 pounds

    Bats/Throws: L/L

    Signed: August 2012 (Mexico)

    ETA: 2016 

    2013 Stats

     

    Scouting Report

    The 5’11" left-hander already has projectable frame and is literally growing; special combination of stuff and pitchability at a young age; employs smooth, repeatable delivery; consistently uses lower half; easy arm action; fastball sits in the low 90s and bumps 94-95 mph; potential plus curveball, and he demonstrates confidence for throwing it in any count; present feel for changeup; ridiculously bright future with front-of-the-rotation upside.

    Ceiling: No. 2 or 3 starter

    Risk: High

    2014 Outlook: The 17-year-old’s stuff and command is worthy of a promotion to High-A for the 2014 season. But after logging only 54.1 innings last year in his professional/full-season debut, it’s more important for Urias to build arm strength and stamina next season rather than face older hitters in the California League. At the same time, Urias has the chance to be something special at a young age, and the Dodgers have a history of challenging their top pitching prospects.

     

    Video courtesy of BullpenBanter.com

42. Kyle Crick, RHP, San Francisco Giants

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    Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

    Position: RHP

    DOB: 11/30/1992 (Age: 21)

    Height/Weight: 6’4”, 220 pounds

    Bats/Throws: L/R

    Drafted: First round, 2011 (Sherman HS, Texas)

    ETA: 2015 

    2013 Stats 

     

    Scouting Report

    Possesses highly projectable frame at 6’4”, 220 pounds; strong core and lower half; struggles to maintain posture at times, causing his arm to drag slightly; effortless fastball velocity in the 93-96 range; bumps 97-98 mph.

    Showed improved command of the pitch this season; establishes early in games; changeup is a second plus pitch; excellent arm speed and velocity separation relative to fastball; plus movement with considerable arm-side fade.

    Curveball is still a work in progress but flashes plus potential when he’s on; impressive shape and pace but shoddy command; struggles to get on top of pitch rather and will frequently come around the side.

    Slider has late bite and should serve as a viable fourth pitch at maturity; aggressively attacks hitters and maintains consistent approach even when command is shaky; feel for sequencing should improve against more advanced hitters.

    Ceiling: No. 2 or 3 starter

    Risk: High

    2014 Outlook: Crick probably would have reached Double-A last year if not for an early-season oblique injury that resulted in two months on the shelf. However, after the right-hander’s dominant performance in the hitter-friendly California League during the second half, followed by an equally impressive showing in the Arizona Fall League, it’s time to see what he can do at a more challenging level.

    Crick has a considerable gap between his present ability and future potential and would benefit from at least another full season in the minors. Yet, a strong showing at Double-A next season and improved command of his secondaries could have the hard-throwing right-hander in the major leagues ahead of schedule.

41. Aaron Sanchez, RHP, Toronto Blue Jays

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    Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

    Position: RHP

    DOB: 07/01/1992 (Age: 21)

    Height/Weight: 6’4”, 190 pounds

    Bats/Throws: R/R

    Drafted: First round, 2010 (Barstow HS, Calif.)

    ETA: Late 2014 

    2013 Stats

     

    Scouting Report

    Sanchez has an athletic and projectable 6’4” frame; effortless and fluid delivery with a quick and clean arm action; still learning how to repeat arm slot with consistency; can overthrow at times; doesn’t always finish; timing can be inconsistent and cause his arm to drag.

    Pure stuff is excellent and stands to improve; fastball registers at an easy 93-96 mph and explodes out of his hand; curveball has legitimate plus-or-better potential with tight spin and sharp downer break; showed an improved feel for it this past season and especially in the Arizona Fall League; changeup has some nice fade and could emerge as another weapon with refinement; below-average command profile; consistently induces weak contact and groundouts; poised to take an enormous step forward in 2014 with improvement to his control/command.

    Projection: No. 2 or 3 starter

    Risk: Medium

    2014 Outlook: Sanchez will likely move up to Double-A for 2014 without ever logging more than 90 innings in a single season. The Blue Jays have no need to rush the 21-year-old to the major leagues, especially with Marcus Stroman set to arrive early in the season, but even the slightest improvement in Sanchez’s control and command could result in a late-season call-up.

40. Braden Shipley, RHP, Arizona Diamondbacks

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    Position: RHP

    DOB: 02/22/1992 (Age: 21)

    Height/Weight: 6’3”, 190 pounds

    Bats/Throws: R/R

    Drafted: First round, 2013 (Nevada)

    ETA: Late 2015 

    2013 Stats

     

    Scouting Report

    Outstanding athlete with shortstop background and little mileage on his arm; extremely projectable 6’3", 190-pound frame with room to fill out; repeats delivery well, considering lack of experience; some effort to delivery that will be cleaned up; lightning-quick arm.

    Athletic delivery and fast arm produce a crisp, plus fastball in 91-95 mph range; topped out at 97-98 mph in the spring; makes up for lack of movement with late life; throws pitch aggressively to both sides of the plate; uses it to pound the strike zone and get ahead in the count; should be able to hold velocity deeper into games as he gets strong and gains experience.

    Curveball is the weakest of his three offerings but flashes plus potential; relatively undeveloped due to effectiveness of fastball-changeup mix; shows a feel for generating tight spin but shape varies due to inconsistent release point; changeup was the best of its kind in the 2013 draft class; plus-plus offering thrown in the low 80s with fastball-like arm speed; turns it over perfectly to generate devastating fading action; effective against both right- and left-handed hitters; true out-pitch at the next level.

    Showcases impressive feel for pitching and overall pitchability relative to time spent on the mound; present command of fastball-changeup throughout strike zone; continues to improve at working down in the zone; aggressively (and confidently) attacks both sides of the plate; isn’t afraid to challenge good hitters; trusts his stuff.

    Projection: No. 2 or 3 starter

    Risk: High

    2014 Outlook: Shipley may endure a few growing pains next season as he moves up to High-A Visalia in the California League, but his outstanding athleticism and electric three-pitch mix should enable him to make the necessary adjustments and reach Double-A by the end of the year.

     

    Video courtesy of Jason Cole

39. Max Fried, LHP, San Diego Padres

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    Position: LHP

    DOB: 01/18/1994 (Age: 19)

    Height/Weight: 6’4", 185 pounds

    Bats/Throws: L/L

    Drafted: First round, 2012 (Harvard-Westlake HS, Calif.)

    ETA: 2016 

    2013 Stats

     

    Scouting Report

    The 6'4", 185-pound left-hander is athletic with a projectable build and considerable polish for his age; has a smooth delivery and fluid arm action; works from consistent three-quarters slot; maintains good posture with good body control; will tend to drift toward front side and overextend toward the plate; has time to clean up mechanical inefficiencies.

    Fastball ranges anywhere from 88 to 93 mph with arm-side action; will top out around 94-95 mph; has the frame to develop more velocity; mixes in both two- and four-seamers; pounds strike zone when he’s on; inconsistent command overall.

    Left-hander’s curveball is easily his best offering with a big break and the potential to draw lots of swings and misses; potential to be plus or better; feel for adding and subtracting, throwing variations of the pitch anywhere from 72-78 mph; future average command; adept at burying the pitch to induce whiffs; changeup flashes at least potential to be above average in low 80s; thrown with deceptive arm speed; impressive feel for turning the pitch over to create sink and fade; utilizes offering against both right- and left-handed hitters; advanced three-pitch mix and overall polish relative to age.

    Projection: No. 2 or 3 starter

    Risk: High

    2014 Outlook: Fried impressed last year in his full-season debut at Low-A Fort Wayne, showcasing three potentially above-average to plus-plus offerings and a knack for missing bats. The soon-to-be 20-year-old will move up to High-A Lake Elsinore in 2014 and may ultimately post another unfavorable walk rate as he continues to develop physically. However, things are going to click for the left-hander sooner rather than later, and when that occurs, he’s going to move quickly.

     

    Video courtesy of Baseball Prospectus

38. Maikel Franco, 3B/1B, Philadelphia Phillies

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    Position: 3B/1B

    DOB: 08/26/1992 (Age: 21)

    Height/Weight: 6’1”, 180 pounds

    Bats/Throws: R/R

    Signed: January 2010 (Dominican Republic)

    ETA: Late 2014

    2013 Stats

      

    Scouting Report

    Already physically strong at 6’1” and 180 pounds with room to add strength; really strong wrists; plus bat speed; feasts on fastballs; usable, in-game plus raw power; makes consistent, hard contact; drives ball with impressive backspin carry; still tends to overswing at times; aggressive hitter who controls the barrel; doesn’t expand the strike zone as often as he did in 2012; improved secondary recognition.

    Below-average speed but surprisingly good range; could eventually move to first base full time; struggles with body control; above-average arm strength; bat will always drive projection.

    Projection: First-division corner infielder

    Risk: Medium

    2014 Outlook: Franco is expected to open the 2014 season at Triple-A, with Cody Asche getting the nod at the hot corner in the major leagues. However, the Phillies envision Franco’s powerful right-handed bat as the perfect complement to their lefty-heavy middle of the order for the years to come, and he’s poised to reach the major leagues sometime after the All-Star break.

     

    Video courtesy of Baseball Instinct

37. Billy Hamilton, OF, Cincinnati Reds

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    Andy Lyons/Getty Images

    Position: OF

    DOB: 09/09/1990 (Age: 23)

    Height/Weight: 6'0", 160 pounds

    Bats/Throws: S/R

    Drafted: Second round, 2009 (Taylorsville HS, Miss.)

    ETA: 2014 (Debuted in 2013) 

    2013 Stats

     

    Scouting Report

    Struggled to consistently put ball in play last year compared to 2012 season; always puts pressure on opposing defense; feet never stop moving on the baseball field and especially on the basepaths; development of hit tool and approach regressed in 2013; struggles to make consistent contact; some extra-base power from left side thanks to more leveraged swing.

    Fastest player I’ve ever seen on a baseball field; best home-to-first time I’ve ever recorded or heard of; everyone in the park knows he’s running and Hamilton still swipes bags with ease; legitimate top-of-the-order potential at maturity; secondary skills are raw and will have to develop at the highest level.

    Hamilton was developed as a shortstop until fall of 2012; elite speed gives him tons of range and closing speed in the outfield; arm stroke that was awkward at shortstop plays well in center field given his length on the back side; speed allows him to compensate for poor reads; he’ll get to even more balls as his jumps and instincts improve.

    Projection: Second-division regular

    Risk: Low

    2014 Outlook: Slated to open the season as the Reds’ center fielder and leadoff hitter, the organization desperately needs Hamilton to be something other than a fourth outfielder or pinch runner. If he comes remotely close to reaching his sky-high ceiling, Hamilton could become a frequent All-Star, not to mention one of baseball’s premier up-the-middle players. If not, well, he'll still probably lead the major leagues in stolen bases.

36. Jorge Alfaro, C, Texas Rangers

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    Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

    Position: C

    DOB: 06/11/1993 (Age: 20)

    Height/Weight: 6’2”, 185 pounds

    Bats/Throws: R/R

    Signed: Jan. 2010 (Colombia)

    ETA: Late 2015 

    2013 Stats

     

    Scouting Report

    Jorge Alfaro has always possessed robust natural ability, and now his baseball skills are starting to catch up in a hurry; incredibly agile and aggressive behind the plate; boasts legitimate plus-plus arm strength; has an absolute cannon that ranks among the best in the game; would seemingly benefit from streamlining more throws rather than relying on sheer arm strength; ability to uncork pills to second base is reminiscent of a young Ivan Rodriguez; threw out a career-best 36 percent of attempted base stealers in 2013.

    He’s still raw in terms of both blocking and receiving (26 passed balls last season) but has continued to improve with experience; above-average speed is a major weapon and makes him the top dual-threat catching prospect in minor leagues; aggressive baserunner with good instincts and forward vision.

    Right-handed hitter employs an aggressive approach; hit tool flashes average-or-better potential; gets out on his front side too often, especially when chasing breaking balls; plus bat speed has translated into above-average power as he’s moved up the ladder; impressive power to right-center field; advanced bat-to-ball ability; should continue to establish a more consistent approach as he gains experience; will always have an element of swing-and-miss to his game.

    Ceiling: First-division catcher/potential All-Star

    Risk: High

    2014 Outlook: Alfaro’s plus raw power and above-average speed makes him a legitimate dual-threat backstop, with the potential for 20-plus home runs and double-digit stolen bases in his prime. While his long-term projection as an All-Star-caliber player still involves considerable risk due to his shaky defense and lack of upper-level experience, Alfaro should continue to make significant developmental strides in 2014 and could conceivably reach Double-A by season’s end.

35. Alex Meyer, RHP, Minnesota Twins

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    Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

    Position: RHP

    DOB: 01/03/1990 (Age: 24)

    Height/Weight: 6’9”, 220 pounds

    Bats/Throws: R/R

    Drafted: First round, 2011 by Nationals (Kentucky)

    ETA: Late 2014 

    2013 Stats

     

    Scouting Report

    This 6’9” right-hander has a massive frame and long limbs; shows body control and repeatable mechanics uncommon in players his size. Throws everything on a steep downhill plane; continues to surprise with command.

    Fastball is difficult to barrel; registers between 93-97 mph and can flirt with triple digits in shorter stints; plus slider has a sharp, wipe-out break; uses it consistently against both right- and left-handed hitters; vs. lefties: he demonstrates a feel throwing it backdoor for a strike and the hitter’s back foot for a swing and miss; changeup shows signs of being at least average but needs refinement; development of third pitch will be crucial to development as a starter.

    Projection: No. 2 or 3 starter; closer 

    Risk: Medium

    2014 Outlook: Meyer’s impact arm strength and ability to miss bats with three offerings will get him to the major leagues in 2014, where the Twins will give him every opportunity to stick in the starting rotation. Even if his mechanics and command don’t translate at the highest level, the 24-year-old still has enormous upside as a top-tier closer.

34. Marcus Stroman, RHP, Toronto Blue Jays

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    Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

    Position: RHP

    DOB: 05/01/1991 (Age: 22)

    Height/Weight: 5’9”, 185 pounds

    Bats/Throws: R/R

    Drafted: First round, 2012 (Duke)

    ETA: Mid-2014

    2013 Stats

     

    Scouting Report

    Undersized at 5'9" but showcases plus athleticism and physical strength; works to create downhill plane toward plate; impressive command profile considering explosiveness of arsenal; proved he has the stuff and durability to remain a starter.

    The 22-year-old possesses ridiculous arm strength; fastball registers in the low to mid-90s, and he’ll bump a few ticks higher in shorter bursts; explosive pitch but lacks late life; present feel for working both sides of the plate; also throws a plus cutter in the low 90s with outstanding slice to the glove side; 83-86 mph slider represents a third plus offering and could even be a plus-plus at maturity; pitch has wipe-out break with the potential to miss bats at any level; effectiveness stems from fastball-like plane and release point; present feel for mixing in a low- to mid 80s changeup that flashes above-average potential; fearless approach on the mound makes entire arsenal play up.

    Projection: No. 2 or 3 starter

    Risk: Medium

    2014 Outlook: Questions about Stroman’s durability and long-term projection as a starter will be up for debate until he proves otherwise—which he will in 2014. The right-hander’s slight build offers an unusual look for opposing hitters and, when combined with his electric stuff, could help him reach his ceiling of a No. 2 or 3 starter in relatively short order next season.

33. Rougned Odor, 2B, Texas Rangers

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    USA TODAY Sports

    Position: 2B

    DOB: 02/03/1994 (Age: 19)

    Height/Weight: 5’11”, 170 pounds

    Bats/Throws: L/R

    Signed: January 2011 (Venezuela)

    ETA: Late 2014 

    2013 Stats

     

    Scouting Report

    The 19-year-old possesses much more physical strength than his 5’11”, 170-pound frame suggests; has continually thrived as a younger player in advanced leagues; hugely underrated combination of hit tool potential and plus speed; left-handed hitter has above-average power for his size and position; impressive power frequency; extra-base machine; drives the ball with authority to all fields; knack for hard contact; compact stroke; demonstrates excellent hand-eye coordination and advanced pitch recognition.

    Above-average range at second base; soft hands and strong arm are a clean fit at the position; has athleticism and tools to handle shortstop in a pinch; hard-nosed ballplayer who does everything with max intensity; excellent instincts; makes things happen on both sides of the ball.

    Ceiling: First-division player; potential All-Star

    Risk: Medium

    2014 Outlook: Odor is likely headed back to Double-A Frisco to open the 2014 season. Last year, the 19-year-old was moved up to the level for the final month of the regular season, and he responded to the challenge by posting an .884 OPS with 16 extra-base hits in 144 plate appearances (30 games).

    With the offseason trade of Ian Kinsler, Odor represents the second-best second baseman in the organization after Jurickson Profar, who’s expected to open the season at the keystone. Though a late-season call-up could be a possibility, Odor is unlikely to see significant time in the major leagues next year without an injury to Elvis Andrus or Profar.

32. Jorge Soler, RHP, Chicago Cubs

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    Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

    Position: OF

    DOB: 02/25/1992 (Age: 21)

    Height/Weight: 6’3”, 225 pounds

    Bats/Throws: R/R

    Signed: June 2012 (Cuba)

    ETA: 2015 

    2013 Stats

     

    Scouting Report

    Strong, physical player at 6’3”, 225 pounds; mature frame requires little projection; ball absolutely jumps off his bat; dynamic bat speed and plus raw power; extension and lift after contact; drives the ball with authority to all fields; approach will need considerable refinement at higher levels; some concern about makeup.

    Comfortable hitting when behind in the count; decent pitch recognition; Soler’s swing has a slight hitch; often appears choppy or rushed; timing mechanism involves a hit and load will be simplified; premium velocity may exploit weaknesses at higher levels.

    Above-average runner who moves well despite size; range will be at least average and more than enough for a corner outfield position; plus arm is second-strongest attribute; ideal for right field; routes and reads have improved since beginning professional career.

    Projection: First-division right fielder; potential All-Star

    Risk: High

    2014 Outlook: While Soler lacks stateside experience and suffered an unfortunate, season-ending injury (stress fracture in left tibia) last June, he has the natural ability and impact tools to get to the major leagues in a hurry. The 21-year-old is expected to return to High-A Daytona to start the 2014 season, but there’s no reason he shouldn’t spend at least half the year at Double-A Tennessee.

31. Raul Mondesi, SS, Kansas City Royals

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    Position: SS

    DOB: 07/27/1995 (Age: 18)

    Height/Weight: 6’1”, 165 pounds

    Bats/Throws: S/R

    Signed: July 2011 (Dominican Republic)

    ETA: Late 2016

    2013 Stats

     

    Scouting Report

    Son of former big leaguer Raul Mondesi; projectable 6’1”, 165-pound frame leaves room to add strength; switch-hitter who’s understandably raw from both sides of the plate; approach is advanced for his age and gives him a chance for an above-average-to-plus hit tool. Above-average bat speed; hard to get a read on his power potential at the moment; shows in-game gap power and has above-average speed to be consistent extra-base threat.

    Mondesi is raw at shortstop but has the athleticism and defensive skills to thrive at the position; intuitive player with an instinctual first step; excellent glove; slick transfer and quick release; needs to improve his body control; plus range leads to high error total, though it’s nothing concerning; plus arm should only get stronger.

    Projection: First-division shortstop

    Risk: High

    2014 Outlook: Mondesi was the youngest everyday player at a full-season level in 2013, as he played over half the season as a 17-year-old and held his own with a .261/.311/.361 batting line, 27 extra-base hits and 24 stolen bases in 536 plate appearances at Low-A Lexington. The precocious shortstop will need a few more years of seasoning in the minors to refine his skills on both sides of the ball and learn to slow down the game, but his ceiling of a first-division shortstop should make it worth the wait.

30. Travis D'Arnaud, C, New York Mets

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    Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

    Position: C

    DOB: 02/10/1989 (Age: 24)

    Height/Weight: 6’2”, 195 pounds

    Bats/Throws: R/R

    Drafted: First round, 2007 by Phillies (Lakewood HS, Calif.)

    ETA: 2014 (Debuted in 2013) 

    2013 Stats

     

    Scouting Report

    The 6’2” right-handed hitter has above-average bat speed; impressive raw power; lift in swing generates backspin carry; power frequency continues to improve; short, compact swing; good feel for bat head relative to zone; makes loud contact to all fields; has some swing-and-miss in his game; will pull open with front side; needs to focus on driving the ball to right-center gap; keeps hands inside ball when in a groove.

    Defense has vastly improved over last two seasons; quiet athleticism; moves well laterally behind the plate; has become a more aggressive blocker; boxes fewer balls; receiving skills continue to improve; ability to frame pitches at the bottom of the strike zone is impressive; gives umpires a good look at pitches; has been lauded by pitchers and managers for putting down good fingers.

    Plus arm is strongest defensive asset; footwork can get out of sync with arm; foot fracture that sidelined him last season shouldn't impact long-term future behind the plate; decision-making has been tested in the major leagues.

    Ceiling: Second-division regular

    Risk: Low

    2014 Outlook: d’Arnaud struggled during his first taste of the major leagues last season, hitting .202/.286/.263 with 21 strikeouts in 112 plate appearances following a mid-August promotion. In his defense, the 24-year-old was rushed to the level after missing significant time with the aforementioned foot fracture; he was understandably rusty.

    After enduring so many significant injuries before even reaching the major leagues, health will always be a serious concern for the duration of d’Arnaud’s career. However, despite the checkered medical history, he still has the potential to be a better-than-average major league regular at a premium position.

29. Jameson Taillon, RHP, Pittsburgh Pirates

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    Christian Petersen/Getty Images

    Position: RHP

    DOB: 11/18/1991 (Age: 22)

    Height/Weight: 6’6”, 235 pounds

    Bats/Throws: R/R

    Drafted: First round, 2010 (The Woodlands HS, Texas)

    ETA: Late 2014 

    2013 Stats

     

    Scouting Report

    The 6’6” power pitcher has a huge ceiling; long limbs give him exceptional reach; tall, lanky frame; loose arm; can be long and tight on backside; hides ball well overall, though left-handers seem to get a decent look; difficult arm angle; repeatable mechanics; still establishing a feel for delivery; needs to utilize height and work downhill; should improve as he learns to finish with consistency.

    Fastball sits in the mid- to high 90s with late movement to the arm side; velocity plays up due to extension; jumps out of his hand and on opposing hitters; curveball is a second plus pitch thrown with velocity and a sharp, two-plane break; made strides with changeup last season; throws it too firmly at times; will be crucial toward overall progress; needs to iron out some minor issues with mechanics and refine his overall command.

    Projection: No. 3 starter

    Risk: Medium

    2014 Outlook: Some people soured on Taillon last season after he failed to take a step forward developmentally in the high minors. However, the reality is the 22-year-old actually improved both his strikeout and groundball rates against advanced competition. Headed back to Triple-A Indianapolis to start the year, Taillon should join Gerrit Cole, the team’s former top prospect, in the major leagues by the end of the 2014 season.

28. Eddie Butler, RHP, Colorado Rockies

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    Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

    Position: RHP

    DOB: 03/13/1991 (Age: 22)

    Height/Weight: 6’2”, 180 pounds

    Bats/Throws: R/R

    Drafted: First round, 2012 (Samford)

    ETA: Early 2014 

    2013 Stats

     

    Scouting Report

    Wiry frame at 6’2”, 180 pounds; still adding strength; three-quarters arm slot; good use of lower half driving toward the plate; crossfire delivery and long limbs create natural deception; delivery involves effort but he repeats it well; noticeable feel for mechanics; showcases a fast arm and smooth release; employs aggressive approach; simply knows how to get guys out. 

    Fastball is a present plus sitting consistently in the 93-96 mph range; tops out at 97-98; average command; features ridiculous movement with exceptional arm-side run and sink; attacks right-handed hitters with two-seamer, which is a legitimate bat-breaker and misser; turns to four-seamer when working up in the zone; also uses it to pound the inner half against left-handed hitters, which is impressive given the crossfire delivery.

    Changeup has late, splitter-like tumble; present plus pitch thrown in the mid- to upper 80s; generates fade and sink that mirrors two-seam fastball; plus-plus potential; nearly identical release point and arm speed relative to heater; throws pitch with conviction against both right- and left-handed hitters; shows confidence in pitch, regardless of count. 

    Slider is an above-average offering in the 84-88 mph range; flashes plus potential; feel for adding and subtracting; features later and sharper bite when thrown toward high end of velocity range; adept at throwing it for a strike and burying it when ahead in the count; another potential swing-and-miss offering; mixes in a low-80s curveball to offer the hitter a different look; decent shape and depth; future solid-average pitch.

    Projection: No. 2 or 3 starter

    Risk: Medium

    2014 Outlook: Butler’s three plus-or-better pitches allowed him to dominate at three levels in 2013, including a lights-out, six-start showing at Double-A to conclude the regular season. The 22-year-old’s stuff and command is nearly major league ready, and it wouldn’t be a surprise if he receives consideration for a spot in the Rockies’ Opening Day rotation. And if Butler opens the year in the minor leagues, then he should be among the first big-name prospects to reach the major leagues, possibly as early as May.

27. Nick Castellanos, 3B/OF, Detroit Tigers

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    Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

    Position: 3B/OF

    DOB: 03/04/1992 (Age: 21)

    Height/Weight: 6’4”, 210 pounds

    Bats/Throws: R/R

    Drafted: First round, 2010 (Archbishop McCarthy HS, Fla.)

    ETA: 2014 (Debuted in 2013) 

    2013 Stats

     

    Scouting Report

    Pure hitter with highly advanced bat-to-ball skills; ability to consistently barrel the ball; natural inside-out swing with most power to right center field; quick hands and bat speed; loose wrists and a fluid swing; lots of extension after contact but not a lofty swing; not physically strong for his size but possesses plenty of wiry strength.

    Power should continue to develop as he gains more experience at higher levels; swing makes him susceptible to inner-half velocity; will chase sliders low and off the plate; has barrel control to be a better-than-average hitter in the major leagues; noticeably improved approach and pitch recognition last season at Triple-A. 

    Drafted and developed as a third baseman until mid-2012 but moved to the outfield as a way to potentially expedite his arrival in the big leagues; shifting back to third base following the Prince Fielder trade; not a strong defender at either position; average defensive profile; strong arm is carrying tool on the infield.

    Projection: First-division regular

    Risk: Medium

    2014 Outlook: Drafted and developed as a third baseman until mid-2012, Castellanos was moved to the outfield as a way to potentially get his bat to the major leagues ahead of schedule. However, following Tigers' offseason trade of Prince Fielder, he’s expected to open the season as the team’s third baseman (his strongest position), with Miguel Cabrera moving back to first base.

    Castellanos is regarded as one of the safest offensive prospects in the game, as the 21-year-old has hit at every level and already received a taste of the major leagues. He’s going to hit for a solid batting average and the power should continue to arrive as he adjusts to major league-caliber pitching; I’m just not convinced it will happen in 2014.

26. Kyle Zimmer, RHP, Kansas City Royals

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    Position: RHP

    DOB: 09/13/1991 (Age: 22)

    Height/Weight: 6’3”, 215 pounds

    Bats/Throws: R/R

    Drafted: First round, 2012 (San Francisco)

    ETA: Late 2014 

    2013 Stats

     

    Scouting Report

    Projectable frame at 6’3”, 215 pounds; had surgery on right elbow following the 2012 season; was shut down in August this past season due to right shoulder tightness; clean, repeatable mechanics; fast, fluid arm action; lack of mileage on arm after moving to the mound as a college sophomore; works on consistent downhill plane; lack of deception can give hitters too good of a look at times.

    Zimmer’s fastball sits in the low to mid-90s with late life; jumps out of his hand thanks to quick arm and easy delivery; can reach back for 96-98 mph at times; curveball is a second plus pitch with sharp downer break; legitimate plus-plus potential; also throws an average slider with tight rotation and good bite; changeup has come along nicely and gives him a deep, four-pitch mix; gets into trouble when he throws too many strikes; stuff plays lighter and soft-ish when left up in the zone.

    Projection: No. 2 or 3 starter

    Risk: Medium

    2014 Outlook: After struggling during the first half of the season at High-A Wilmington, Zimmer turned things around in a big way after the All-Star break, posting dominant numbers at Double-A before getting shut down in August due to right shoulder tightness. The 22-year-old will open the 2014 season back at Double-A and, provided he remains healthy, should reach the major leagues sometime during the second half.

25. Corey Seager, SS, Los Angeles Dodgers

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    Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

    Position: SS

    DOB: 04/27/1994 (Age: 19)

    Height/Weight: 6’4”, 215 pounds

    Bats/Throws: L/R

    Drafted: First round, 2012 (Northwest Cabarrus, N.C.)

    ETA: Late 2015

    2013 Stats

     

    Scouting Report

    At 6’4”, 215 pounds, Seager has present physicality with room to tack on additional strength; boasts advanced left-handed bat with the potential for above-average hit and power tools; exhibits all-around good habits at the plate that are uncommon in a 19-year-old hitter; has an easy, direct swing that allows him to sting the ball from line to line with impressive power to the opposite field.

    Noticeably employs a consistent approach at the plate and doesn’t get himself out; he’s selective, but it doesn’t impede his ability to attack and drive the ball; Seager’s struggles stem from a combination of him overstriding and drifting with his hips; causes him to fight against his body to keep weight on the backside, which in turn makes him vulnerable to quality secondary pitches.

    Possesses average speed on both sides of the ball that tends to play up due to his instincts; range is only average but enough to remain at shortstop for the time being; there’s a chance he outgrows the position as he develops physically and shifts to third base.

    Projection: First-division regular

    Risk: Medium

    2014 Outlook: Seager seemed exhausted by the end of the 2013 regular season, batting just .160/.246/.320 with 31 strikeouts in 27 games following a late promotion to High-A Rancho Cucamonga. His fatigue and struggles were then amplified playing in the Arizona Fall League, where he fanned an additional 25 times in 19 games. The 19-year-old will return to High-A to open the 2014 season, and if all goes as planned he’ll finish the year in Double-A.

24. Mark Appel, RHP, Houston Astros

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    Thomas Campbell-USA TODAY Sports

    Position: RHP

    DOB: 07/15/1991 (Age: 22) 

    Height/Weight: 6’5”, 190 pounds

    Bats/Throws: R/R

    Drafted: First round, 2013 (Stanford)

    ETA: Late 2014 

    2013 Stats

     

    Scouting Report

    Physically stronger and in better shape than 2012; generates extension toward plate with long limbs with consistent release point over front side; utilization of strong lower half and core has resulted in cleaner mid-three-quarter arm action; allows him to create a consistent plane toward the plate; can almost be too smooth at times, which limits his natural deception; near-elite combination of size, athleticism and arm strength.

    Fastball sits consistently in the 93-97 mph range; comes out of his hand cleanly and can jump on opposing hitters; holds mid-90s velocity deep into his starts; lacks plus movement; tends to flatten out when elevated; flashes some sink and arm-side run when located down in the strike zone; needs more consistent extension to generate consistent life; control has always been sharp; command is average but played up against college hitters.

    Mid-three-quarter arm angle inhibits his ability to throw slider with consistent shape and pace; registers in 84-88 mph range; slurve-like spin gives the offering some glove-slide slice; too much sweeping action as he pushes it to the plate; offering will need to be cleaned up upon turning pro.

    Changeup is a plus offering with the chance for future plus-plus grade; thrown in the 83-85 mph range with fastball-like arm speed; demonstrates natural feel for turning it over; generates late sinking action with steep fade to the arm side; confidence throwing it in any count; true out pitch at the next level; needs to create a more distinct speed differential relative to slider.

    Projection: No. 2 or 3 starter

    Risk: Low

    2014 Outlook: While his arsenal is one of the more advanced and polished among all pitching prospects, Appel’s approach and feel—the one that made him so successful against college hitters—for sequencing may need to be adjusted as he climbs the professional ladder. The Astros won’t need him at the major league level in 2014, but, at the same time, they won’t be afraid to challenge him if it makes sense. Expect Appel to open the year in Double-A and make a strong case for a call-up by the season’s end.

23. Gregory Polanco, OF, Pittsburgh Pirates

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    Elsa/Getty Images

    Position: OF

    DOB: 09/14/1991 (Age: 22)

    Height/Weight: 6’4”, 170 pounds

    Bats/Throws: L/L

    Signed: April 2009 (Dominican Republic)

    ETA: Late 2014

    2013 Stats 

     

    Scouting Report

    Top-flight athlete; projectable 6’4”, 170-pound frame; plenty of room to add strength; has outstanding tools and surprisingly mature secondary skills; left-handed hitter has the potential for an above-average or better hit tool at the highest level; showcases excellent bat speed and bat-to-ball ability; already comfortable driving the ball to all fields; swings to drive the ball but doesn’t sell out for power; bat enters zone at steep angle to generate backspin carry; can overload at times and get long; may be susceptible to premium velocity.

    Plus athleticism, excellent speed and range profile favorably in center field; long strides; rangy; gets good jumps; routes are still improving; may lose a step or two as he fills out; should hit enough even if he’s forced to a corner spot.

    Projection: First-division regular

    Risk: Medium

    2014 Outlook: Polanco’s tools and feel for the game are impressive for a player of his age and experience, though he’s still rough around edges with room to improve in all facets of the game. However, the potential is there for a first-division standout at maturity, and it might not be long until the 22-year-old joins Andrew McCutchen and Starling Marte to form the most exciting outfield in baseball.

22. Yordano Ventura, RHP, Kansas City Royals

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    John Rieger-USA TODAY Sports

    Position: RHP

    DOB: 06/03/1991 (Age: 22)

    Height/Weight: 5’11”, 180 pounds

    Bats/Throws: R/R

    Signed: October 2008 (Dominican Republic)

    ETA: Early 2014 (Debuted in 2013) 

    2013 Stats

     

    Scouting Report

    Right-hander has wiry frame at 5’11”, 180 pounds with room to add even more strength; lightning-quick arm that pumps fastballs in the mid- to high 90s; capable of reaching triple digits deep into starts; fastball lacks significant movement; demonstrates feel for cutting the pitch at times; will occasionally overthrow.

    Curveball has the makings of a second plus pitch with sharp downer break; comfortable throwing it in any count; legitimate out pitch but still needs slight refinement; changeup is fringe-average and could be another weapon with further refinement; big upside, considering his arm speed; both command and control are raw but have improved this season; has shown a more consistent feel for arsenal.

    Projection: No. 2 or 3 starter; closer 

    Risk: Medium

    2014 Outlook: Ventura’s undersized, wiry frame will always raise questions about his long-term durability. However, his transformation from a thrower into a pitcher last season helped ease some of the doubt, as did his trio of impressive starts as a September call-up in the heat of a playoff race. It would be surprising if Ventura didn’t open the year in the Royals starting rotation.

21. Robert Stephenson, RHP, Cincinnati Reds

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    Position: RHP

    DOB: 02/24/1993 (Age: 20)

    Height/Weight: 6’2”, 190 pounds

    Bats/Throws: R/R

    Drafted: First round, 2011 (Alhambra HS, Calif.)

    ETA: Mid-2015

    2013 Stats 

     

    Scouting Report

    Stephenson is a durable 6’2” right-hander with a projectable frame and elite arm strength; loose body and arm action. Fastball is a plus pitch with effortless 94-98 mph velocity; routinely bumps triple digits; easy release creates deception; jumps out of the hand; commands pitch well to both sides of the plate; attacks opposing hitters; will overthrow at times.

    Has an advanced feel for fading changeup and sells it with fastball-like arm speed. His breaking ball will need to be cleaned up, but its present pace and shape suggests it’ll be another plus offering. Secondary offerings lack consistency, though that should improve with experience against advanced competition. Should have no problem reaching his ceiling as a front-line starter.

    Projection: No. 2 or 3 starter

    Risk: Medium

    2014 Outlook: Stephenson was placed on the fast track to the major leagues in 2013, seeing time at three different levels and finishing the season at Double-A. The right-hander will open the year back at the level and could be ready for the major leagues later in the season, though he’s unlikely to receive an extended look unless there’s an injury. However, expect Stephenson to assume a spot in the Reds starting rotation in 2015.

     

    Video courtesy of Ron Shah

20. Jonathan Gray, RHP, Colorado Rockies

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    Crystal LoGiudice-USA TODAY Spor

    Position: RHP

    DOB: 11/05/1991 (Age: 22)

    Height/Weight: 6’4”, 255 pounds

    Bats/Throws: R/R

    Drafted: First round, 2013 (Oklahoma)

    ETA: Late 2014 

    2013 Stats

     

    Scouting Report

    Classic power pitcher frame at 6’4” and 255 pounds; broad shoulders; strong lower half and core with a knowledge of how to use both; drives off the rubber; power doesn’t require maximum effort; fast and fluid arm action; explosive; can appear stiff at times; will still get underneath the ball and drag arm; has a feel for his mechanics and understands when to make adjustments.

    Possesses the stamina to work deep into starts; demonstrates body control overall; rarely rushes delivery; can pull open with front shoulder at times and lose pitches up and to the arm side; will occasionally lose the feel for his release point from the stretch; can offer left-handed hitters too good of a look at the ball at time of release.

    Effortless plus-plus fastball velocity; borderline elite; registers in the 94-98 mph range deep into games; will crack triple digits early in starts; topped out at 102 mph this spring; lacks movement; doesn’t shy away from challenging hitters; plus slider sits consistently between 85-88 mph; late, wipe-out break; sharp tilt with great pace; present plus offering; will need to bury it more as a professional.

    Straight changeup is weakest of his offerings and is an average pitch with the chance to improve a grade; 81-84 mph; thrown with convincing fastball-like arm speed; some fading action to the arm side.

    Projection: No. 1 or 2 starter

    Risk: Medium

    2014 Outlook: Gray could probably handle the major leagues right now, though the Rockies obviously have no need to rush his development. But as long as he can stay healthy, it may be difficult for organization to keep him in the minors next season for more than a few months. Expect Gray to open the year at either High-A or Double-A, and then join Eddie Butler in the rotation by mid-summer.

19. Kris Bryant, 3B, Chicago Cubs

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    Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

    Position: 3B

    DOB: 01/04/1992 (Age: 22)

    Height/Weight: 6’5”, 215 pounds

    Bats/Throws: R/R

    Drafted: First round, 2013 (San Diego)

    ETA: Late 2014 

    2013 Stats

     

    Scouting Report

    Understands how to utilize massive 6’5”, 215-pound frame; wide stance and base; effortless, quiet swing for slugger; toe-tap load with balanced weight transfer through the baseball; will be forced to improve pitch selection and recognition in the majors; swing has some length and makes him vulnerable to plus velocity on the hands; present plus-plus raw power to all fields.

    Chance to boast elite power at maturity with improvements; loose hands and wrists; outstanding bat speed; power should always be there, even if average isn’t; showcases impressive barrel control through the strike zone; excellent hip rotation creates extension through the baseball, but he can get too rotational at times; favorable point of contact off a firm front side; generates backspin carry to all fields.

    Moves well for a player of his size; present athleticism; not a base-clogger; should be able to stay at hot corner as a professional, at least initially; able to get low enough to make the plays; actions can be too deliberate and stiff; glove and hands profile as a corner infielder; average range.

    Could shift to the outfield in deference to Javier Baez and Starlin Castro; actions, athleticism and long strides could make him an average defender at the position; plus arm strength is strongest defensive asset; clean arm stroke and release; good carry on throws; above-average accuracy, more than enough for third base and/or right field.

    Projection: Potential All-Star

    Risk: Medium

    2014 Outlook: Bryant capped his impressive professional debut with a monster performance at High-A Daytona, where he posted a 1.106 OPS with 11 extra-base hits (five home runs) in 16 games. And just for good measure, the 22-year-old captured MVP honors in 2013 Arizona Fall League with a 1.184 OPS and six home runs in 20 games. While there’s uncertainty about his ultimate defensive home, Bryant’s bat could have him in the major leagues (in some capacity) by the end of the 2014 season.

18. Carlos Martinez, RHP, St. Louis Cardinals

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    Greg M. Cooper-USA TODAY Sports

    Position: RHP

    DOB: 09/21/1991 (Age: 22)

    Height/Weight: 6’0", 185 pounds

    Bats/Throws: R/R

    Signed: April 2010 (Dominican Republic)

    ETA: 2014 (Debuted in 2013) 

    2013 Stats

     

    Scouting Report

    Undersized at 6’0”, 165 pounds; limited physical projection; right-hander boasts ridiculous arm speed that’s drawn comparisons to Pedro Martinez’s; he possesses an explosive four-seam fastball that registers in the upper 90s as well as a heavy sinker that comes in a few ticks slower.

    His slider is his preferred secondary offering, thrown with power in the low 80s; pitch is a sharp-breaker that dives out of the strike zone at the last moment; legitimate out-pitch and bat-misser.

    The 22-year-old’s mid- to upper 80s changeup was considered his best weapon in previous years thanks to his ability to replicate the arm speed of his fastball; pitch was used significantly less after carving out a role in the Cardinals bullpen; will be vital to his success as a starter next season, especially for neutralizing left-handed hitters; combination of his arm strength and feel for pitching gives Martinez the potential to be a dynamic, front-of-the-rotation starting pitcher.

    Ceiling: No. 2 or 3 starter; elite closer

    Risk: Medium

    2014 Outlook: After opening the year in the Double-A starting rotation, Martinez spent the second half of the season working out of the Cardinals major league bullpen before emerging as manager Mike Matheny’s go-to setup man in the postseason. Despite his success in the late-inning role, the right-hander has a higher ceiling as a starter and therefore will audition for a rotation spot in spring training. If Martinez fails to win a spot, he’s still a safe bet to open the 2014 season at the back end of the bullpen.

17. Dylan Bundy, RHP, Baltimore Orioles

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    Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

    Position: RHP

    DOB: 11/15/1992 (Age: 21)

    Height/Weight: 6’1”, 195 pounds

    Bats/Throws: S/R

    Drafted: First round, 2011 (Owasso HS, Okla.)

    ETA: Late 2014 (Debuted in 2012) 

    2013 Stats (DNP—Tommy John surgery)

     

    Scouting Report

    The 6’1” right-hander is physically strong; broad shoulders; utilizes lower half and core strength; finishes well out front; minimal effort; repeats delivery; durable; quick arm; hard to pick up out of hand; poised from the stretch; possesses a feel for his mechanics well beyond his years.

    Bundy boasts an advanced four-pitch mix highlighted by a mid-90s two-seam fastball with exceptional run; blows hitters away with a four-seamer that reaches the high 90s; breaking ball is a hammer and plus pitch; tight rotation; still developing command of the pitch; occasionally leaves it up in the zone; changeup is his most consistent secondary pitch; potential to be another above-average offering; also has a slider but primary breaking ball is the curve.

    Projection: No. 1 or 2 starter

    Risk: High (only because of TJ surgery)

    2014 Outlook: Possessing a combination of physical strength, stuff and advanced pitchability, Bundy is the definition of a future ace. However, expectations should be tempered next season following his return from Tommy John surgery, as it could take some time for the right-hander to regain a feel for his craft after a year-and-a-half absence. I wouldn’t rule out Bundy returning to the major leagues in August/September, especially if the O’s are in the playoff hunt; but it makes more sense for the organization to ensure he’s fully healthy and ready to join the rotation in early 2015.

16. George Springer, OF, Houston Astros

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    Elsa/Getty Images

    Position: OF

    DOB: 09/19/1989 (Age: 24)

    Height/Weight: 6’3”, 200 pounds

    Bats/Throws: R/R

    Drafted: First round, 2011 (Connecticut)

    ETA: Mid-2014 

    2013 Stats 

     

    Scouting Report

    The 6'3", 200-pounder has the potential for five average-to-plus tools in the major leagues; hit tool has surpassed expectations but still has question marks; struggles to showcase consistent approach; tries to pull everything; pitch recognition needs refinement, especially against breaking balls; long swing inhibits consistent contact; plus-plus raw power to all fields; has made max-effort swing work thus far.

    Has the athleticism and defensive skills to remain in center field; above-average speed lends to his range; adept and aggressive base stealer; projects to be at least an above-average defender in the major leagues; strong arm plays anywhere in the outfield; he's 24 but still has a high ceiling; the development of hit tool will determine whether he becomes a star.

    Projection: Potential All-Star

    Risk: Medium

    2014 Outlook: Springer’s game-changing power-speed combo should make him an impact player in the major leagues. However, the ongoing development of his hit tool and plate discipline will ultimately determine whether he’s an All-Star-caliber player or an everyday regular. Either way, expect the toolsy outfielder to see significant playing time in the majors next year, regardless of where he begins the season.

15. Lucas Giolito, RHP, Washington Nationals

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    Joy R. Absalon-USA TODAY Sports

    Position: RHP

    DOB: 07/14/1994 (Age: 19)

    Height/Weight: 6’6”, 225 pounds

    Bats/Throws: R/R

    Drafted: First round, 2012 (Harvard-Westlake HS, Calif.)

    ETA: Late 2015 

    2013 Stats

     

    Scouting Report

    Giolito and his big-time arm strength received consideration for the No. 1 overall draft pick in 2012 after sitting in the mid- to high 90s early in the spring; tweaked UCL in March and missed the rest of the high school season; re-injured elbow in first professional start this summer and subsequently underwent Tommy John surgery; returned in early July this year and showcased jaw-dropping stuff.

    The 6’6” right-hander has a smooth and balanced delivery; mechanics can get out of sync like any young pitcher with long limbs; boasts a legit 80-grade fastball in the 94-100 mph range; bumps triple digits with ease; holds velocity deep into starts; already shows feel for command of pitch throughout zone.

    Curveball is a second potentially elite offering and flat-out nasty; only plus-plus at the present; pitch draws as many jelly-leg reactions from right-handed batters as it does whiffs; changeup already is, at worst, an average offering thrown in the low 80s; should add two grades as his feel improves, giving him three plus-or-better pitches; potential for above-average command of all three offerings is impressive given the amount of movement; poised for monster full-season debut and could rank as the game’s top pitching prospect at this time next year.

    Projection: No. 1 or 2 starter

    Risk: High

    2014 Outlook: With three monster offerings, Giolito has the ceiling of one of baseball’s best pitchers. The right-hander will make his highly anticipated full-season debut next year at Low-A Hagerstown, and there’s a realistic chance he’ll finish the season in High-A or even Double-A. Regardless of any future promotions, expect the Nationals to proceed cautiously with Giolito’s workload given his recent elbow surgery.

14. Miguel Sano, 3B, Minnesota Twins

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    Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

    Position: 3B

    DOB: 05/11/1993 (Age: 20)

    Height/Weight: 6’3”, 195 pounds

    Bats/Throws: R/R

    Signed: October 2009 (Dominican Republic)

    ETA: Late 2014 

    2013 Stats

     

    Scouting Report

    Best raw power (80-grade) and power frequency in the minor leagues. Powerful swing generates tremendous backspin carry to all fields; has some holes and too many swings-and-misses; effortless plus bat speed with big-time strength; showcased more consistent approach this season against advanced pitching; improved pitch recognition; understands pitchers will attack him with soft stuff off the plate; works deep counts thanks to feel for strike zone; can still be overanxious at times; timing will get out of sync at times and he’ll struggle to achieve a favorable point of contact; results in frequent weakly hit ground balls to the left side.

    Present athleticism despite his 6’3”, 195-pound frame; big dude with broad shoulders; lacks physical projections; glove and footwork have noticeably improved this season; learned to take a more instinctual first step; average range; surprising body control; good hands; smooth transition and clean arm stroke; plus arm strength; accuracy continues to improve and led to fewer lazy/careless errors this season.

    Projection: Potential All-Star

    Risk: Medium

    2014 Outlook: There’s a chance that Sano may require Tommy John surgery after suffering an elbow injury this offseason playing in the Dominican Winter League. If that’s ultimately the case, then the 20-year-old will be forced to miss the entire 2014 season. However, if he receives a clean bill of health, Sano should be dropping tape-measure bombs in the major leagues sometime after the All-Star break.

13. Austin Hedges, C, San Diego Padres

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    Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

    Position: C

    DOB: 08/18/1992 (Age: 21)

    Height/Weight: 6’1”, 190 pounds

    Bats/Throws: R/R

    Drafted: Second round, 2011 (Junipero Serra Catholic HS, Calif.)

    ETA: Mid-2015  

    2013 Stats 

     

    Scouting Report

    The top defensive catcher in the minor leagues—hands down; Hedges’ defensive prowess alone will get him to the major leagues; stifles opponents’ running game with a plus arm and quick catch and release; consistent plus pop times; outstanding receiver with little movement behind the plate; gives the umpire an ideal look at every pitch; blocking continues to improve; has received praise from both his pitchers and managers for his game-calling skills and ability to slow down the game.

    Hit tool projects to be average to above-average; has held his own against advanced pitching; will get beaten by velocity on the hands; mature approach for his age; shows willingness to coax walks; plenty of gap power; over-the-fence pop should continue to emerge; more speed and athleticism than typical catcher; instincts should allow him to approach double-digit stolen base totals.

    Projection: Potential All-Star

    Risk: Low

    2014 Outlook: If Hedges continues to make strides at the plate in 2014—likely back at the Double-A level—it’s not crazy to envision the Padres offering him a late-season cup of coffee. Still, a mid-2015 arrival in the major leagues probably is more realistic. 

12. Albert Almora, OF, Chicago Cubs

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    Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

    Position: OF

    DOB: 04/16/1994 (Age: 19)

    Height/Weight: 6’2”, 180 pounds

    Bats/Throws: R/R

    Drafted: First round, 2012 (Mater Academy, Fla.)

    ETA: Late 2015

    2013 Stats

     

    Scouting Report

    Premium athlete who showcases all five tools, a mature work ethic and advanced baseball skills; 6’2”, 180-pound frame leaves room for projection; above-average bat speed results in consistent, hard contact to all fields.

    Quiet and efficient swing with little wasted movement; power will develop as he matures; should be above-average by the time he reaches the major leagues; Almora’s barrel control and ability to stay inside the ball are both impressive for his age; the right-handed hitter’s barrel control gives him a smooth, natural stroke to right-center field.

    Slightly above-average runner; demonstrates excellent instincts in center field through his reads, jumps and positioning; average arm strength that’s best-suited for center field; above-average defensive outfielder with natural ability and an all-out style; he also has high baseball IQ with outstanding makeup.

    Projection: First-division regular; potential All-Star

    Risk: Medium

    2014 Outlook: Almora’s full-season debut was book-ended by a pair of injuries, but it didn’t stop him from emerging as one of the top hitters in the low minors. The 19-year-old is an incredibly well-rounded player for his age with sneaky All-Star potential, and he could start moving quickly next season after opening the year at High-A Daytona.

11. Kevin Gausman, RHP, Baltimore Orioles

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    Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

    Position: RHP

    DOB: 01/06/1991 (Age: 23)

    Height/Weight: 6’3”, 190 pounds

    Bats/Throws: R/R

    Drafted: First round, 2012 (Louisiana State)

    ETA: 2014 (Debuted in 2013)

    2013 Stats

     

    Scouting Notes

    Gausman has a power frame at 6’3”, 190 pounds, and still has room to fill out; plus athleticism allows him to repeat active delivery; maintains balance throughout and knows how to use his lower half; doesn’t rely on pure arm strength as he once did.

    Right-hander boasts huge velocity, with a four-seam fastball that registers consistently in the mid- to upper 90s; two-seamer registers a few ticks slower but features more arm-side run; holds velocity deep into starts; changeup is a legitimate plus-plus pitch in the low to mid-80s with devastating, splitter-like drop; made noticeable strides improving his slider over the last year; development of the breaking ball will be crucial to his success moving forward; viable third pitch to complement his fastball-changeup combo could make him a front-of-the-rotation force for years to come; electric arsenal and plus command profile give him an insanely high ceiling.

    Projection: No. 2 starter

    Risk: Low

    2014 Outlook: It was a busy 2013 season for Gausman, as he was rushed to the major leagues as a starter in May before finally finding success as a reliever in September. The right-hander’s electric arsenal and plus command profile give him an insanely high ceiling, and with a more consistent and effective breaking ball, he could realize that potential in a hurry. Gausman should open the 2014 season in the O’s starting rotation and, in general, seems poised to take a huge step forward.

10. Addison Russell, SS, Oakland Athletics

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    Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

    Position: SS

    DOB: 01/23/1994 (Age: 19)

    Height/Weight: 6’0", 195 pounds

    Bats/Throws: R/R

    Drafted: First round, 2012 (Pace HS, Fla.)

    ETA: Late 2014 

    2013 Stats

     

    Scouting Report

    Dynamic right-handed hitter; explosive wrists; strong hands; ropes line drives to all fields. Demonstrates a knack for barreling the ball; maintains balance throughout swing; present strength projects for above-average power; should always tally a high number of doubles and triples. Over-the-fence power should begin to show itself in coming years; takes aggressive hacks; swings to strike the baseball rather than feel for contact; advanced bat control yields loud contact to all fields. Smart base stealer who picks his spots and gets good jumps.

    Plus runner with quick feet; plenty of range; athleticism for any position on the field; doesn’t always showcase the prettiest actions at shortstop but makes all the plays. Plays through the ball and gets rid of it quickly; gathers momentum toward target. Active and agile defender; above-average arm strength; throws pills across the infield with a fast arm and smooth transfer.

    Projection: Regular All-Star

    Risk: Medium

    2014 Outlook: After an outstanding professional debut in 2012, Russell continued to develop quickly last season despite an aggressive assignment to High-A. Assuming he opens the 2014 season at Double-A, it's very likely that Russell will debut as the A's big league shortstop as a 20-year-old later in the year.

9. Noah Syndergaard, RHP, New York Mets

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    Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

    Position: RHP

    DOB: 08/29/1992 (Age: 21)

    Height/Weight: 6’6”, 240 pounds

    Bats/Throws: L/R

    Drafted: First round, 2010 by Toronto (Legacy HS, Texas)

    ETA: Late 2014 

    2013 Stats

     

    Scouting Report

    The 6’6” right-hander has a power pitcher’s frame; physical presence on the bump; throws everything on a solid downhill plane; pounds lower portion of strike zone; repeats mechanics well for his size; delivery requires minimal effort; consistently lands square to the plate; fast arm; strong core; moderate effort involved in delivery.

    Fastball sits in the mid- to upper 90s with late arm-side life; scraped 100 mph in the Eastern League playoffs; amasses a healthy mix of strikeouts and ground-ball outs thanks to steep plane; curveball has plus potential in the upper 70s; tight breaker with sharp downward bite; command of the pitch has improved this season; stays on top of the pitch consistently.

    Added an above-average slider this season that has helped regulate the arm speed on the curveball; has improved control of his changeup but still only an average offering; thrown with deceptive arm speed; should serve as a weapon against left-handed hitters; control and command give him the chance to be a monster.

    Projection: No. 1 or 2 starter

    Risk: Medium

    2014 Outlook: Syndergaard has one of the highest ceilings among all pitching prospects, with the pure stuff and command to pitch at the front of a rotation. Assuming he opens the 2014 season at Triple-A, the right-hander could be ready to debut around midseason, just as Matt Harvey and Zack Wheeler did in previous years.  

8. Javier Baez, SS, Chicago Cubs

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    Jake Roth-USA TODAY Sports

    Position: SS

    DOB: 12/01/1992 (Age: 21)

    Height/Weight: 6’0”, 190 pounds

    Bats/Throws: R/R

    Drafted: First round, 2011 (Arlington Country Day School, Fla.)

    ETA: Late 2014 

    2013 Stats

     

    Scouting Report

    Right-handed hitter with potential for above-average-to-plus hit tool; raw power is an easy plus attribute; elite, plus-plus bat speed yields loud contact to all fields; 20-20 potential; will jump on velocity with extremely strong wrists and top hand.

    Max-effort swing every time; lacks a feel for the strike zone and will chase too many pitches; needs to show some restraint; will need to improve pitch recognition; chases too many breaking balls; can be beaten by quality sequencing; needs to work more counts; aggressive base stealer; secondary skills steadily improving. 

    The 6’0”, 190-pounder is a shortstop at the moment; addition of too much strength may prompt a move to third base; impressive athlete with smooth, natural defensive actions; speed may lose a grade as he develops physically; should always be at least solid defensively; high error totals should come down with more experience; plus arm ideal for left side of the infield; high-intensity player who still needs to slow game down defensively.

    Projection: Regular All-Star 

    Risk: Medium

    2014 Outlook: While he may always be a little rough around the edges, Baez has the upside of the game’s most productive hitter during his prime, with the potential to put up 30-plus home runs annually. However, with fellow prospects Kris Bryant and Arismendy Alcantara also competing for spots on the Cubs’ future infield, it’ll be interesting to see how the team fits Baez’s bat in the lineup later this year.

7. Taijuan Walker, RHP, Seattle Mariners

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    Ed Zurga/Getty Images

    Position: RHP

    DOB: 08/13/1992 (Age: 21)

    Height/Weight: 6’4”, 210 pounds

    Bats/Throws: R/R

    Drafted: First round, 2010 (Yucaipa HS, Calif.)

    ETA: 2014 (Debuted in 2013) 

    2013 Stats 

     

    Scouting Report

    Walker has a highly projectable frame at 6’4” and 210 pounds; excellent athleticism; still has relatively low mileage on his arm; made big strides this season in evolution from thrower to pitcher; improved use of lower half; still needs to finish with more consistency; will sometimes struggle to get extension and complete follow-through; easy, fluid mechanics that he repeats well; smooth, explosive arm action.

    Fastball consistently registers at 93-96 mph; jumps on opposing hitters; dials it up to 97-98 mph on occasion; sustains velocity well into his starts; curveball is presently inconsistent but flashes plus potential; when he has a feel for it, the pitch has great shape and a late, downward bite; will over-grip and spike it on occasion; changeup has come along nicely; developed into above-average offering but still needs further refinement; low-90s cutter is another weapon that should help him work left-handed hitters on the inner half; excellent mound presence; has learned how to make in-game adjustments.

    Projection: No. 2 starter 

    Risk: Low

    2014 Outlook: Walker will audition for the starting rotation in spring training and will probably win a spot based on the virtues of his stuff and potential. However, the right-hander's command, especially as it relates to his secondary arsenal, will be challenged along with his ability to make adjustments against major league hitters.

6. Oscar Taveras, OF, St. Louis Cardinals

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    USA TODAY Sports

    Position: OF

    DOB: 06/19/1992 (Age: 21)

    Height/Weight: 6’2”, 200 pounds

    Bats/Throws: L/L

    Signed: November 2008 (Dominican Republic)

    ETA: Early 2014 

    2013 Stats

     

    Scouting Report

    Left-handed hitter who employs a powerful yet balanced swing; keeps bat head in the zone for an extended period of time; strong hands, forearms; always gets head through the zone to achieve favorable point of contact; outstanding plate coverage; successful even when forced to muscle the ball; has 25-plus-home run potential; lift to swing generates carry to all fields.

    Hits same-side pitching; makes loud contact to all fields; comfortable hitting any pitch in any count; doesn’t walk a ton and strikeouts will always be minimal given his pitch recognition and excellent hand-eye coordination; baserunning can be overaggressive and even reckless.

    Capable of playing all three outfield positions; has seen a majority of time in center field but will likely assume a corner spot in the major leagues; solid actions; slightly above-average range; tracks ball well; was an average runner before ankle injury this past season; routes in the outfield have improved over last two years, but there’s still plenty of room for improvement.

    Projection: Regular All-Star

    Risk: Low

    2014 Outlook: Provided that he’s healthy, Taveras is a safe bet to rake upon reaching the major leagues next season and could potentially run away with the National League Rookie of the Year award. Spring training will help determine where he begins the 2014 season, but expect the 21-year-old to spend a majority of the year hitting in the middle of the Cardinals order.

5. Francisco Lindor, SS, Cleveland Indians

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    USA TODAY Sports

    Position: SS

    DOB: 11/14/1993 (Age: 20)

    Height/Weight: 5’11”, 175 pounds

    Bats/Throws: S/R

    Drafted: First round, 2011 (Montverde HS, Fla.)

    ETA: Late 2014 

    2013 Stats

     

    Scouting Report

    Switch-hitter works deep counts and demonstrates feel for strike zone; advanced pitch recognition and approach; will collect plenty of extra-base hits; below-average power; more pop from left side; potential for above-average hit tool from both sides. Present bat control; above-average speed; advanced and instinctual base stealer; mature secondary skills.

    Legitimate wizard at shortstop; potential to be elite defender in the major leagues; Gold Glove floor; does things at the position that no teenager should be able to do; outstanding makeup and instincts; ridiculously good glove; soft hands; above-average range; always gains momentum through the baseball and toward the target; accurate, above-average arm; defense ready for major leagues right now; destined to have a long career in majors even if bat doesn’t translate.

    Projection: Regular All-Star

    Risk: Low

    2014 Outlook: Lindor reached Double-A last year as a 19-year-old, receiving a midseason promotion to the level after thriving in the High-A Carolina League. With a realistic ceiling of the best defensive shortstop in the major leagues—as well as Adam Wells' fantasy spirit animal—anything Lindor offers at the plate is merely a bonus. He’ll open the 2014 season back at Double-A with the potential to reach Cleveland well ahead of schedule.

4. Archie Bradley, RHP, Arizona Diamondbacks

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    Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

    Position: RHP

    DOB: 08/10/1992 (Age: 21)

    Height/Weight: 6’4”, 225 pounds

    Bats/Throws: R/R

    Drafted: First round, 2011 (Broken Arrow HS, Okla.)

    ETA: Mid-2014 

    2013 Stats

     

    Scouting Report

    6’4”, 225-pound right-hander has excellent athleticism for his size; recruited as a quarterback by the University of Oklahoma out of high school; durable frame capable of eating innings and lasting deep into starts; athletic delivery that includes a momentum-building leg kick; exhibited better body control in 2013; everything he throws is heavy and on a steep, downhill plane.

    Right-hander boasts a heavy fastball in the mid- to upper 90s; thrown consistently on a downhill plane and cuts through strike zone with weight of a bowling ball; holds velocity deep into starts; can reach back for 97-98 mph as needed but shows better control in 94-96 range; plus-plus curveball is a hammer with sharp, downer bite; will serve as a legitimate out-pitch in the big leagues; changeup flashes above-average potential with late fade; command varies but his feel for the pitch is encouraging.

    Projection: No. 1 or 2 starter

    Risk: Low

    2014 Outlook: Bradley will compete for a spot in the Diamondbacks' rotation next spring, though it’s likely he’ll open the season at Triple-A Reno. Regardless, the organization's recent history of promoting top pitching prospects ahead of schedule suggests that the 21-year-old will spend most of the 2014 season in the major leagues.

3. Carlos Correa, SS, Houston Astros

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    David Kohl-USA TODAY Sports

    Position: SS

    DOB: 09/22/1994 (Age: 19)

    Height/Weight: 6’4”, 190 pounds

    Bats/Throws: R/R

    Drafted: First round, 2012 (PR Baseball Academy, P.R.)

    ETA: Mid-2015 

    2013 Stats 

     

    Scouting Report

    Physically blessed shortstop at 6’4”, 190 pounds; five average-to-plus tools; phenomenal athleticism and baseball skills give him elite potential; hit tool is already more advanced than anticipated with plenty of room to improve; above-average (maybe plus) potential; should add serious strength; plus bat speed projects for 20-plus-home run potential; doesn’t sell out for power; above-average runner who moves well on both sides of the ball.

    Fluid actions despite size; excellent instincts; needs to improve body control; arm is legitimate plus-plus and an absolute cannon; demonstrates soft hands with a smooth transfer and quick release; held his own defensively as one of the younger everyday players across Low-A; above-average future defender.

    Projection: Regular All-Star

    Risk: Medium

    2014 Outlook: Correa is a physically blessed player with the potential for four plus-or-better tools at maturity. He'll move up to High-A in 2014 after last year's dazzling full-season debut at Low-A Quad Cities, and he'll probably spend a chunk of the season at Double-A (possible even a higher level). Though he's entering his age-19 season, Correa he may not require much more time to refine his game in the minor leagues, and there’s reason to believe he’ll be a top-tier shortstop with legitimate MVP potential in his prime.

2. Xander Bogaerts, SS/3B, Boston Red Sox

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    Jared Wickerham/Getty Images

    Position: SS/3B

    DOB: 10/01/1992 (Age: 21)

    Height/Weight: 6’3”, 185 pounds

    Bats/Throws: R/R

    Signed: August 2009 (Aruba)

    ETA: 2014 (Debuted in 2013)

    2013 Stats

     

    Scouting Report

    At 6’3”, 185 pounds, Bogaerts is a right-handed hitter with one hell of a bat; employs an upright stance; has eliminated some of the height to his leg lift during load; still gets all of his weight to backside and then through the ball; aggressive swing results in loud contact to all fields but doesn’t sell out for power; possesses plus bat speed with plus raw power to every field; backspin carry; lift to stroke and flight of ball; extension after contact; can turn around good velocity.

    Hit tool has developed quickly with adjustment to approach and improved pitch recognition; legitimate plus, maybe plus-plus, potential; cut down on strikeouts this year and is using the entire field consistently; still prone to chase good breaking balls off the plate; approach will continue to improve against advanced pitching.

    Will continue to play shortstop until he’s forced to move from position; obviously already more than qualified to handle third base in the major leagues; solid hands; plus arm strength; accuracy has improved over last year; demonstrates excellent overall athleticism despite large frame; slightly above-average speed with similar range; could lose a step as he matures.

    Projection: Perennial All-Star

    Risk: Low

    2014 Outlook: The 2013 season couldn’t have gone better for Bogaerts, who made stops at Double- and Triple-A before finally reaching the major leagues only to emerge as the starting third baseman on Boston’s World Series-winning team. Bogaerts has the ceiling of one of baseball’s premier players, with the potential to offer star-level production at a premium position. Even if he’s forced to slide over to the hot corner, Bogaerts’ potent bat should still make him a perennial All-Star. Expect him to emerge as one of the game’s top young players next season as a 21-year-old.

1. Byron Buxton, OF, Minnesota Twins

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    Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

    Position: OF

    DOB: 12/18/1993 (Age: 20)

    Height/Weight: 6’2”, 189 pounds

    Bats/Throws: R/R

    Drafted: First round, 2012 (Appling County HS, Ga.)

    ETA: Late 2014 

    2013 Stats

     

    Scouting Report

    The 6’2”, 189-pounder has a tapered build with wiry strength; strong wrists; plus bat speed; effortless plus raw power; ridiculous quick-twitch muscles; approach and hit tool should continue to surpass expectations; advanced beyond his years; simple, compact stroke with a short bat path; maintains balance throughout swing; works to achieve favorable point of contact; showcases effortless ability to explode through the baseball.

    Possesses 80-grade speed with similar range; plus-plus defensive profile makes him a lock to remain in center field; plus arm strength is more than enough for the position; lauded for his makeup and work ethic; still needs experience despite outstanding start to professional career; has the tools, athleticism and baseball skills to reach the major leagues in a hurry.

    Projection: Perennial All-Star

    Risk: Medium

    2014 Outlook: Buxton has the ceiling of an MVP-caliber player, with five potentially plus tools and a unique feel for making in-game adjustments at a young age. Buxton is ticketed for Double-A New Britain to begin 2014, and if all goes as planned, he'll finish the season as a 20-year-old in the major leagues. Get excited, folks. 

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