Projecting Big League ETAs for Baseball's 5 Most MLB-Ready Prospects

Mike Rosenbaum@GoldenSombreroMLB Prospects Lead WriterMarch 28, 2014

Projecting Big League ETAs for Baseball's 5 Most MLB-Ready Prospects

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    SS Francisco Lindor is expected to take over for Asdrubal Cabrera next season.
    SS Francisco Lindor is expected to take over for Asdrubal Cabrera next season.Associated Press

    Even though prospects such as Billy Hamilton, Nick Castellanos and Kolten Wong earned spots on their teams' Opening Day rosters, a majority of the game's top-ranked young players are expected to debut in the major leagues as the season unfolds.

    In most cases, prospects cut from major league camp this spring were guys lacking significant professional experience or a clear path to consistent playing time in the major leagues.

    Specifically, top-ranked prospects Oscar Taveras, Javier Baez and Archie Bradley will begin the season in Triple-A, while fast-rising shortstops Addison Russell and Francisco Lindor are likely ticketed for Double-A.

    But when can we expect this collection of future stars to start arriving in the major leagues?

    To determine the estimated time of arrival for the aforementioned prospects, I looked each player's highest level of experience (ignoring players who have yet to reach Double-A) and service-time situation, while also taking into consideration their respective organization's potential needs at the highest level headed into the season.

    With that being said, here are the projected 2014 ETAs for baseball's five most MLB-ready prospects. 

Oscar Taveras, OF, St. Louis Cardinals

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    USA TODAY Sports

    2013 in Review

    After a monster 2012 campaign at Double-A, Oscar Taveras entered the 2013 season as the sport’s top-ranked outfield prospect and was expected to make an impact at the major league level after a brief stay at Triple-A Memphis.

    Unfortunately, the 21-year-old suffered a high ankle sprain in late May, resulting in two separate stints on the disabled list and, ultimately, season-ending surgery. Overall, Taveras batted .306/.341/.462 with 17 extra-base hits and 32 RBI at Memphis but was limited to only 46 games.

    Road to the Major Leagues 

    Taveras was finally cleared to play in games on March 7 this year, and he appropriately doubled in his highly anticipated spring debut. However, the St. Louis Cardinals held Taveras out of the lineup due to hamstring tightness after just two games, and a few days later they announced that he’d once again begin the season at Triple-A.

    The Cardinals will let Taveras regain full strength and receive consistent at-bats at Memphis to begin the season, as they have no immediate need (or a spot) for him in the major leagues.

    But once the outfielder finds his groove at the platewhich he obviously will, because he’s Oscar Taverasthe team will be forced to make room for him in the everyday lineup. Assuming he arrives somewhere around mid-season, Taveras should rank among the top candidates for the NL Rookie of the Year Award by season’s end.

    MLB ETA: June/July

Javier Baez, SS, Chicago Cubs

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    Jake Roth-USA TODAY Sports

    2013 in Review 

    Javier Baez turned in a monster 2013 campaign between High-A and Double-A, batting .282/.341/.578 with 98 runs scored and 20 stolen bases. The 21-year-old led all minor league hitters with 75 extra-base hits and 111 RBI, and he also ranked second with 37 home runs in 577 plate appearances.

    Road to the Major Leagues

    Baez dropped jaws this spring for the second straight year, showcasing his 80-grade power in the form of five prodigious home runs, including two to center field and one to right. The 21-year-old received extensive playing time at shortstopa product of Starlin Castro missing time with a hamstring injuryeven playing a few games at the keystone before his reassignment to minor league camp on March 22.

    With a top-flight prospect such as Baez—easily the most dynamic hitter in the Chicago Cubs system right now—an aggressive promotion to the major leagues simply represents the next phase in his overall development. However, given his impact potential on offense and the overall likelihood that he sticks in the major leagues, it makes sense for the Cubs to keep him in Triple-A until June due to service-time concerns, as there’s a strong chance he’d end up qualifying as a “Super Two” player

    MLB ETA: Mid-June

Francisco Lindor, SS, Cleveland Indians

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    Rob Tringali/Getty Images

    2013 in Review

    Francisco Lindor continued to fly through the Indians system last season, as the then-teenager batted .303/.380/.407 with 22 doubles, seven triples, 25 stolen bases and a 46-49 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 464 plate appearances between High-A Carolina and Double-A Akron.

    Road to the Major Leagues 

    Lindor thrived once again this year in major league camp, even hitting a go-ahead, three-run home run in a game against the Seattle Mariners on March 2. Yet, as expected, the 20-year-old defensive wizard was included in the Cleveland Indians' first round of cuts on March 12 and received an assignment to minor league camp.

    With incumbent shortstop Asdrubal Cabrera entering the final year of his contract, Lindor currently lacks a clear path to playing time this year. However, since he’s expected to take over as the team’s everyday shortstop in 2015, Lindor is likely to receive a call-up sometime after the All-Star breakor even earlier should Cabrera land on the disabled list.

    MLB ETA: Late July

Archie Bradley, RHP, Arizona Diamondbacks

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    Cameron Spencer/Getty Images

    2013 in Review

    Archie Bradley opened the 2013 season at High-A Visalia and made quick work of the hitter-friendly California League, posting a 1.26 ERA and 43/10 K/BB in 28.2 innings over five starts. 

    As a result of his utter domination at the level, the then-20-year-old received an early-season promotion to Double-A Mobile, where he continued to thrive against older, more experienced hitters. Making 21 starts at Mobile, Bradley registered a 1.97 ERA, .214 opponents’ batting average and a 119/59 K/BB in 123.1 innings.

    Between both levels, the right-hander posted a 1.84 ERA with 162 strikeouts in 152 innings.

    Road to the Major Leagues 

    Though he’s clearly one of the Arizona Diamondbacks' five best starters headed into the season, Bradley, 21, was reassigned to minor league camp on Thursday, per Zach Buchanan of the Arizona Republic.

    The decision isn’t surprising, as it allows the organization to insert Randall Delgado, who is out of options, into the starting rotation. Plus, Bradley didn’t exactly help his own cause by struggling with his command in back-to-back starts this spring.

    However, Arizona's track record of promoting its top pitching prospects ahead of schedule (Patrick Corbin, Trevor Bauer, Tyler Skaggs) suggests Bradley will spend a majority of the year in the major leagues. And based on the current state of the team’s rotation, there’s a realistic chance he's the first high-profile prospect to get the call this season.

    MLB ETA: Late May/Early June

Addison Russell, SS, Oakland Athletics

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    Christian Petersen/Getty Images

    2013 in Review

    The Oakland Athletics challenged Addison Russell last season with an aggressive assignment to High-A Stockton, where he served as one of the youngest everyday players across the entire the level. However, one might not have guessed that based on his production, as the 20-year-old batted .275/.377/.508 with 85 runs scored, 56 extra-base hits (17 home runs) and 21 stolen bases in 504 plate appearances. At the end of the season, the A’s promoted Russell to Triple-A Sacramento for the team’s stretch run, though he went just 1-for-13 with nine strikeouts in three games. 

    Road to the Major Leagues

    Russell overcame a slow start to spring training and finally was starting to heat up at the plate when he suffered a hamstring injury on March 10 while running to first base. And after a week of inactivity, the A’s decided to reassign him to minor league camp. Prior to that, Russell had received extensive playing time at shortstop (12 games), which suggests the organization expects him to contribute sooner rather than later this season.

    Assuming Russell recovers from the injury in time for Opening Day and begins the season in Double-A, then there’s a very good chance he’ll debut as the A's shortstop before his 21st birthday and spend a few months in the major leagues.

    MLB ETA: Late July