Baseball America just released its annual all star team: a strange but talented mixture of budding prospects, future bench players, and the occasional minor league lifer.
The lineup, selected by the entire BA staff, reads as follows (Name, Major League Club, level played in)
C Josmil Pinto, Twins, AAA
1B Chris Colabello, Twins, AAA
2B Marcus Semien, White Sox, AAA
3B Miguel Sano, Twins, AA
SS Xander Bogaerts, Red Sox, AAA
CF Byron Buxton, Twins, A+
OF Joc Pederson, Dodgers, AA
OF George Springer, Astros, AAA
DH Javier Baez, Cubs, AA
The most glaring thing to take away here is just how stacked the Twins’ system is; they have of the eight listed players. Granted, this lineup is meant to reflect performance not potential, and not all these players will become productive starters, but heavy presence is still noteworthy. Actually, aside from Chris Colabello, a 29 year old who spent the first seven years of his professional career in independent ball, the Twins’ players are a rather talented bunch.
Josmil Pinto, 24, isn’t an incredibly sexy prospect. He was signed out of Venezuela for a rather paltry amount – a few thousand –and the young catcher slogged through the lower levels of the minors before showing signs of life last season. This year, Pinto earned his all star nod by truly breaking out, slimming down from 230 to 210 pounds to improve his previously questionable defense while posting a .309/.400/.882 OPS with 15 homers between AA and AAA. He may not be an all star, but he could be the Twins starting catcher come 2014, when Joe Mauer may make the inevitable switch to first base. Pinto has looked good so far, hitting .467 with a home run in his first 30 major league at bats.
Miguel Sano and Byron Buxton don’t really need the same introduction, they’ve already spent some time on the prospect radar. The former was signed out of the D.R. For 3.5 million dollars while the latter was last year’s number two overall pick and was the consensus top prospect in baseball by July. Each of them, though, made the all star team for different reasons. Sano earned the nod for his Bunyan like power, mashing 35 home runs as a 20 year old, and Buxton did it with his speed, glove, and a line drive swing that let him hit .334 with an .944 OPS in his first full professional season. Each of them will doubtlessly be starting in Minnesota no later than 2015.
Three other guys to keep an eye on are OF George Springer and Shortstops Xander Bogaerts and Javier Baez. Springer, 23, was named the 37th best prospect in baseball going into the year, but didn’t truly maximize his athleticism until this season. Splitting time between AA and AAA, Springer made a run at becoming the first minor leaguer in fifty years to go 40/40 (40 home runs and 40 stolen bases), but ultimately fell short, swiping 45 bags, but hitting “just” 37. Obviously fast, and with enough range to stay in center, Springer is an early candidate for the 2014 Rookie of the Year award. Competing against him for that crown will be Bogaerts, who, despite being just 20 years old and a shortstop, bopped 15 home en route to an .865 OPS between AA and AAA. Ranked by BA as the #8 overall prospect going into the year, Professor X is already in the majors, having earned a September call up. He’s hit well in a small sample size so far, putting up a .766 OPS in just 11 games on the left side of the infield. While Bogaerts is likely to remain at short, Javier Baez’s future is unclear. He’s a raw masher who tore apart the minor leagues to the tune of 37 home runs last year, and he has, as Baseball America puts it, “the raw tools to play a big league shortstop.” At the same time, however, Baez makes too many mistakes. He struck out 147 times this year while drawing only 40 walks and he made a 44 errors at shortstop. Baez will hit either way but if he can master his positon and cut down on the strikeouts, he could be one of the best shortstops of this era.
OF Joc Pederson and 2B Marcus Semien are both talented as well, if not as much as the last five guys mentioned. Pederson showed plus power this year, hitting 22 home runs and slugging .497, but while he may one day start in the majors, perhaps even make an all star team, it won’t be with the Dodgers. Los Angeles already has four outfielders and is having a difficult time as it is trying to play all of them. Semien proved to be a great combination of power, speed and patience this year, hitting 19 home runs with 24 stolen bases and an astonishing 98 walks. He may be a utility man down the road, but the talent starved White Sox will give him every chance to succeed.