We never published a Top 100 list of prospects here at Grading on the Curve but that’s not to say that we didn’t do some work behind the scenes. Thanks to the work of my colleague Shaun Kernahan, we compiled a Top 50 list in somewhat of a unique way. Instead of each writer/editor of GOTC submitting his own complete Top Prospect list, we submitted groups of 10 players. If a player didn’t make the ten we were putting together at the time, then he would likely be resubmitted for the next ten. It’s definitely not an exact science but it gives us some interesting results, especially down the line.
Today I’m going to look at the first 10 of our top prospects as we conclude the first two months of the minor league season. Injuries have ravaged these players this season, making it interesting to see what’s going to happen for the rest of the year.
Byron Buxton - OF – Minnesota Twins
A wrist injury has kept Buxton, one of the game’s most exciting players, out of action for all except for five games this season. He had just three hits in 20 at bats (although two of those hits were for extra bases) and struck out eight times.
Stock: Down for now
Xander Bogaerts - SS – Boston Red Sox
The only player to graduate from the top portion of our list thanks to ML playing time, Bogaerts is having a very good start to the season in the majors. Hitting .296/.388/.425, Bogaerts is doing a lot to help the Red Sox with a very good walk rate (10.7%) as well as a decent strikeout rate for a rookie (22.4%). Defensively, he hasn’t been off the charts at shortstop but hasn’t been bad either. That said, with the signing of Stephen Drew, Bogaerts will probably move back to third base when Drew’s activated.
Oscar Taveras – OF – St. Louis Cardinals
The 21 year old Dominican has been hitting up a storm for Triple-A Memphis and a call up could be right around the corner. Hitting .325/.373/.524, Taveras is showing that he hasn’t missed a step after missing much of 2013 due to injury. He looks healthy and is starting to show the kind of power numbers that he had in 2012 in Double-A.
Taijuan Walker – RHP – Seattle Mariners
The 21-year-old Californian was expected to be a major player in the Seattle rotation this year but a shoulder injury during spring training has pushed him way back. Walker attempted to get back in April but was shut down after two rehab starts for High Desert and Jackson but he is on the comeback trail again after throwing his first rehab assignment with Tacoma on Wednesday, allowing four runs on five hits in three innings but he didn’t walk anyone and struck out three.
Stock: Steady until we’re sure he’s healthy
Miguel Sano - 3B – Minnesota Twins
Sano was diagnosed with a tear in his UCL requiring Tommy John surgery back in spring training and will be gone for the year. Still, he’s just turned 21 and already has half a season of Double-A under his belt.
Javier Baez - SS – Chicago Cubs
After Baez mashed his way through a half a season each at the High-A and Double-A levels in 2013, the Cubs decided to challenge the offensively gifted youngster by assigning him to Triple-A Iowa. While he’s not going anywhere soon, Baez hasn’t been up to the challenge, striking out 33.9% of the time with a low (although not monumentally low for him) 6.8% walk rate. He’s still showing a ton of power with a .199 ISO to go with his .224/.282/.422 slash line and his May numbers show an 80 point jump in his batting average (and corresponding 137 point jump in OPS) over his struggling April.
Stock: Down but recovering nicely
Archie Bradley - RHP – Arizona Diamondbacks
The D-backs’ top prospect, Bradley is yet another player in the Top 10 of our list who has succumbed to an injury after being placed on the DL at the end of April after five starts with Triple-A Reno. With a 5.18 ERA and 1.56 WHIP, Bradley clearly wasn’t himself and was diagnosed with a mid-flexor strain in his elbow. Bradley has been throwing for the last week and a half (unless he’s been shut down again) and could be back within a month depending on his progress.
Stock: Down a bit.
Francisco Lindor – SS – Cleveland Indians
The good news is that Lindor hasn’t been hit by the injury bug and has been playing well after returning to Double-A Akron. Lindor has a .287/.379/.410 line, which is pretty much what you might expect from the 20-year-old Puerto Rican. A high-walk, low-strikeout, defensive wizard, Lindor has also seen his power numbers take a bit of a step forward, sitting at a respectable .122 ISO so far this season.
Carlos Correa – SS – Houston Astros
Correa has been raking in the California League at the young age of 19 with a .315/.380/.484 line. He’s helped by a .356 BABIP but he was able to sustain a high BABIP of .375 over a full year last year in a less hitter-friendly league (the Midwest League) so it doesn’t look like too much of an anomaly. While the increased power numbers may be an illusion, Correa’s abilities to hit the ball hard and play good defense are not and he could move up to Double-A soon unless the Astros want to take things slowly.
Kris Bryant - 3B – Chicago Cubs
At the ripe old age of 22, Bryant started his first full season of professional baseball with the Double-A Tennessee Smokies of the Southern League and has taken to it like a fish to water. The only blemish on his record is a 27.0% strikeout rate but everything else he’s done this year is mind blowing. Despite a seemingly unsustainable .442 BABIP (his BABIP in Boise and Dayton were both over .400 last year which tells you that he might just hit the ball so hard it’s extremely tough to field) Bryant is slugging his way to a promotion soon (check out Da Windy City for their thoughts on the matter). His slash line of .347/.451/.674 is drool-worthy as are his 30 extra-base hits including 16 home runs that are near the top of the minor leagues. So, yeah. The kid is kinda good.