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10 Important 2015 Spring Training Names You’ve Never Heard Of

Not every successful major league player is a former top prospect.

One of the more rewarding aspects of scouting comes from the identification of young players who, despite flying under the radar, showcase the potential to be impact players at the highest level. That’s also what makes spring training so great: It’s an opportunity to view a wide range of players who might not be well-known outside of their organizations.

With that said, here’s a look at 10 under-the-radar spring training prospects worth knowing for the 2015 season.

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Will Dodgers Be Patient with Joc Pederson in World Series or Bust Pressure?

Change was the theme of the offseason for the Los Angeles Dodgers, both on and off the field.

It began with an overhaul of the team’s front office, as ownership hired Andrew Friedman and Farhan Zaidi to serve as president of baseball operations and general manager, respectively, and with those two analytic rock stars came a new approach to constructing a winning and cost-effective roster.

That led to some tough goodbyes to fan-favorite players, as Friedman and Zaidi allowed Hanley Ramirez to leave as a free agent and then traded Dee Gordon and Matt Kemp in December during the annual winter meetings.

While the Dodgers subsequently restructured their middle infield through trades for veterans Jimmy Rollins and Howie Kendrick, the team’s decision not to replace Kemp in center field was a direct vote of confidence in prospect Joc Pederson.

Pederson enjoyed one of the better seasons in minor league history in 2014, as the 22-year-old was named MVP of the Triple-A Pacific Coast League after leading the league in home runs (33), OPS (1.017), on-base percentage (.435), runs scored (106), walks (100) and total bases (259). He also became the first Pacific Coast League player to hit 30 home runs and steal 30 bases in a season since 1934. 

Unfortunately, Pederson didn’t fare as well in his first taste of the major leagues, as the September call-up was just 4-for-28 (.143) with 11 strikeouts and nine walks in 38 plate appearances with the Dodgers.

At 6’1″, 185 pounds, Pederson is an impressive athlete with quiet strength, showcasing five average-or-better tools and good secondary skills. He projects to be a slightly above-average hitter at the highest level, with a mature approach and line-drive-oriented swing, and he already demonstrates a feel for working counts and getting on base.

The left-handed hitter has shown at least above-average power at every minor league stop, including a career-high 33 bombs in 2014. His power will play even if the average doesn’t translate, as Pederson is patient enough to wait out specific pitches each trip to the plate.

Pederson’s consistency on the basepaths rivals his power frequency, as he’s now swiped at least 26 bases in each of the last four seasons. Beyond that, his knack for getting on base and using his speed to put pressure on opposing defenses should always make him a consistent source of runs.

Pederson is a natural in the outfield, with plus range, excellent instincts and above-average arm strength, and manager Don Mattingly has previously stated he believes the 22-year-old is the “best defensive center fielder” in the organization, per Steve Dilbeck of the Los Angeles Times.

Following the season, the 22-year-old traveled to the Dominican Republic to play winter ball for the Leones del Escogido. He batted .265/.351/.361 with five extra-base hits (one home run), 13 runs scored, 10 walks and 33 strikeouts in 22 games with Escogido.

As expected, the Dodgers coaching staff and front office have been noncommittal about the possibility of Pederson, who has nothing left to prove in the minor leagues, opening the 2015 season in center field. The youngster will “have the opportunity to compete for the position” during spring training, according to Mattingly, while Zaidi has acknowledged that it’s between Pederson and Andre Ethier heading into camp. However, I’m not convinced it will be the battle they’re making it out to be.

Pederson’s potential to contribute in 2015 obviously played a major part in the Dodgers’ decision to deal Kemp, so one would think he’d have to fail pretty miserably in spring training for Ethier to win the Opening Day gig.

On top of that, the center field situation will determine the club’s outfield configuration next season, which makes it hard to believe the Dodgers would enter spring training with that much uncertainty at the position.

The Dodgers front office “would not have shipped Matt Kemp to the division-rival Padres if they didn’t believe Pederson is for real,” writes Lyle Spencer of

Whether Pederson makes an impact and lives up to expectations will depend on his ability to make adjustments and overcome the inevitable growing pains that come along with being a rookie in the major leagues. For him, specifically, that will mean keeping his strikeout rate, which reached 27 percent last season between Triple-A and the major leagues, under control.

The Steamer and ZIPS projection models for 2015 call for Pederson to strike out somewhere in the 25 to 30 percent range, but they also like his chances of going 20-20 with a 10-plus percent walk rate in his age-23 campaign.

With Carl Crawford slated for left field and Yasiel Puig opposite him in right, Ethier would likely be the odd man out if Pederson claims center field. Suffice it to say the 32-year-old Ethier, who’s coming off a career-worst season (.249 average, four home runs in 380 plate appearances) and is still owed $56 million, would not be on board with such a role.

However, it still makes sense for the Dodgers to hang onto Ethier in 2015, argues Dilbeck, as the Kemp trade made him even more valuable to the team:

The problem is, should they trade Ethier and Pederson struggles, they could be in trouble. You almost would have to keep Ethier. He absolutely will not like it and be far from happy and cause Manager Don Mattingly a few maddening moments, but Ethier wouldn’t sour the clubhouse. He’s too much a loner. And though he was mostly great about his situation as the odd outfielder out last season, it’s not like he’s never been in a snit before.

The Dodgers potentially have something special in Joc Pederson, but they also have enough outfield depth so that he won’t be forced into an Opening Day role if he’s not ready.

Like any young power hitter, Pederson, who turns 23 in April, can be streaky at the plate, so he’s likely to experience plenty of ups and downs over a full season in the major leagues. At the same time, Pederson’s steady improvement from year to year in the minor leagues speaks to his capacity to make adjustments against advanced competition, and it should give the Dodgers enough confidence to stick with the promising center fielder through it all in 2015.

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10 MLB Hitters Who Could Experience a Power Surge in 2015

Every season features countless players who enjoy an uptick in power and hit more home runs than they did the previous year.

The improvement can be extreme in some cases, such as when Jose Bautista went from 13 home runs in 2009 to 54 the following year. However, a majority of the time it’s more subtle, with players adding anywhere from five to 15 home runs compared to the previous year.

But which players are poised to hit for more power in 2015?

In order to determine candidates with the potential for a power spike next season, we looked at guys with room to improve in their home run totals and isolated slugging (ISO), using line drive, fly ball and home run rates in 2014 as predictors. We also considered guys who battled power-limiting injuries last season and are reportedly fully healthy entering spring training.

Here are 10 hitters who could experience a power surge in 2015.

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MLB Farm System Rankings: Pre-Spring Training Edition

Spring training is set to begin next week when pitchers and catchers report to camp, meaning Major League Baseball’s long and at times insane offseason is coming to an end.

So far, much of the focus has been the movement among big leaguers due to all the free-agent signings and teams trading their top chips to new squads. However, this offseason also has featured plenty of action on the minor league front. And with spring training just around the corner, it’s time for Prospect Pipeline to officially rank the farm systems of all 30 clubs.

As always, our rankings are based on two criteria: impact potential and depth. Since a team may have more of one than the other, it’s necessary to have more than a couple of players who project as quality big leaguers in order to have a good farm system.

One last thing to remember: Any player who is no longer prospect eligible—that is, anyone who has exceeded 130 at-bats or 50 innings pitched in the major leagues—is not considered in their team’s ranking.

That means no Mookie Betts for the Boston Red Sox, Javier Baez for the Chicago Cubs or Taijuan Walker for the Seattle Mariners, among others who exhausted their rookie status late in the 2014 campaign.

Here’s how all 30 farm systems stack up heading into spring training.


Want to talk prospects? Hit me up on Twitter: @GoldenSombrero

2015 Top 10 Prospects Index | 2014 Pre-Spring Training Edition Farm System Rankings

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Predicting Non-Roster Invitees Who Will Have Huge Spring Trainings

With less than two weeks until the start of spring training, most organizations have already extended invitations to their non-40-man-roster players.

Besides providing an opportunity for players to fine-tune their skills against more advanced competition, spring training offers prospects the chance to make a strong impression in front of the entire organization.

This year’s crop of non-roster invitees includes many of baseball’s top prospects, including Byron Buxton, Kris Bryant and Carlos Correa. However, they aren’t the only prospects expected to open eyes this year in major league camp.

Here’s a look at seven non-roster prospects who will have huge springs.

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Previewing the Hottest Questions of 2015 Spring Training, 2 Weeks out

Spring training is just around the corner, with pitchers and catchers set to report to camp sometime between Feb. 19 and 23, depending on the team, and position players arriving the following week.

But even though the start of the season draws closer every day, there are still several unanswered questions that, once answered, are sure to have a major impact on the 2015 season.


Who will sign Yoan Moncada?

The sweepstakes for Cuban phenom Yoan Moncada intensified this week after the 19-year-old was cleared to negotiate and sign with any big league club.

When he signs, Moncada is expected to receive roughly $40 million, a would-be record under the international bonus pool system. His new team will face a 100 percent tax on the pool overage, so basically an additional $40 million.

Earlier this week, Jesse Sanchez of highlighted the five teams he believes have the best chances of signing Moncada: the New York Yankees, Los Angeles Dodgers, Boston Red Sox, San Diego Padres and Detroit Tigers. Of those teams, Sanchez views the Yankees as the favorites to land the Cuban prospect:

The Yanks have a long history in the international market and were the first team to blow past their international bonus pools by signing several top prospects on July 2. That number is now close to 30, but none would be bigger than Moncada. The Yankees were among the first teams to watch him in a private workout, and they have been considered the favorites for several months.

Meanwhile, Buster Olney of ESPN thinks it makes sense for the Dodgers to pursue Moncada, citing the team’s deep pockets as well as its current lack of a long-term second baseman. However, it might not be worth Moncada‘s final cost plus the international signing restrictions the team will face in the following two years, writes’s Ken Gurnick.

Whether it’s the Yankees, Dodgers or another team that ultimately invests in Moncada’s future, it’s clear that there are plenty of teams that believe he’s worth it.


How will the Tigers replace Victor Martinez?

On Thursday, we learned Victor Martinez has a torn medial meniscus in his left knee and that he’s set to undergo surgery Tuesday.

Martinez finished second to Mike Trout for the American League MVP Award in 2014 after batting .335 with 32 home runs. The Tigers re-signed the 36-year-old designated hitter to a four-year, $68 million contract back in November.

He suffered the injury during a recent workout, and it’s his second major offseason knee injury in the last four years.

The injury couldn’t have come at a worse time for the Tigers, as there was already concern about whether Miguel Cabrera would be fully healthy for spring training due to a stress fracture in his left foot.’s Christina Kahrl notes the Tigers offense could be in serious trouble if V-Mart misses significant time:

Baseball Prospectus projects Detroit to score more than 20 fewer runs than last year’s 757, while analyst Clay Davenport pegged them even more harshly, losing more than 50 runs—five wins in the standings if you work with that simple 10 runs equals a win formula. And that was before V-Mart got hurt.

The Tigers won’t have an exact timetable for Martinez’s return until he has surgery next week. The severity of the injury is likely to determine the length of his recovery, writes Jason Beck of

A clean-out typically requires four to six weeks of recovery. Because Martinez has had previous surgeries, including a repair of his meniscus in 2012 after he tore his anterior cruciate ligament, he could be more cautious, missing six to eight weeks. A reattachment, Dr. Khabie said, requires up to six months of recovery.

The early speculation is the Tigers will look for answers within their system, according to Beck. Minor leaguers Jordan Lennerton and Aaron Westlake appear to be the best options, and both players are now expected to receive extended playing time during spring training.


Who will sign James Shields?

Free agent James Shields has multiple offers on the table and is expected to sign before the end of the weekend, tweets Jon Morosi of Fox Sports (h/t MLB Trade Rumors). Beyond that, it’s mostly speculation concerning which teams are legitimately in play for the right-hander.

Jim Bowden of ESPN recently noted that Shields is highly unlikely to receive the five-year, $100 million contract he sought heading into the offseason, and certainly not a fifth year:

As a former general manager, I can tell you that when a player gets to the first week of February unsigned, there’s usually a good reason. If something were going to happen, it would have by then. Now Shields is looking at a four-year deal in the $70-$80 million range as the best possible result, and the price tag could be even lower than that. 

On Thursday, CBS Sports’ Jon Heyman reported the San Diego Padres might be the front-runner to land Shields, “Who makes his home in the San Diego area and is himself said to prefer to play on the West Coast after spending the first part of his career in Tampa Bay and Kansas City.”

ESPN’s Buster Olney has also heard increased buzz about the possibility of Shields landing in San Diego:

That the Toronto Blue Jays are said to have some interest in the 33-year-old Shields is surprising to Heyman:

One of those teams is said to be the Blue Jays, who are said to be ‘kicking the tires’ on Shields in something of a surprise since their obvious financial restrictions have inhibited them from going hard after a closer, which would seem to be a need. The Blue Jays made their signing of star catcher Russell Martin for $82 million possible by backloading the contract.

Meanwhile, the Chicago Cubs are also “kicking the tires” on Shields, according to David Kaplan of, and the team could become even more interested should his price tag continue to fall.

Stay tuned, as it might not be long until we learn where Big Game James will pitch in 2015.

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Ranking All 30 MLB Teams on Homegrown Talent

All 30 MLB teams emphasize building from within and cultivating their own homegrown talent. A lot of it has to do with payroll, as small-market teams are forced to get the most out of their controllable young assets, while big-market teams can afford to deal prospects and spend big in free agency

It’s not always related to a market issue, though. For example, the St. Louis Cardinals continue to have more homegrown big league talent than anyone despite a relatively large payroll. Meanwhile, the Oakland Athletics have a somewhat small payroll to work with, but they’re also thin on homegrown players.

What follows is a look at all 30 MLB teams ranked from worst to first on homegrown talent as we get set the start of spring training.

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7 Prospects Who Will Improve the Most in 2015

Not every successful major league player is a former top prospect. Typically, it’s the high-profile, high-ceiling players who typically garner the most hype as they ascend the organizational ladder.

One of the more rewarding aspects of scouting is identifying young players who, despite flying under the radar or underperforming early in their careers, have considerable room for improvement and showcase the potential to be impact players in the major leagues.

With that being said, here’s a look at seven prospects who will improve the most in 2015.

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Introducing Lucas Giolito, the Pitching Phenom Making Strasburg Expendable

The signing of free agent Max Scherzer to a seven-year, $210 million contract improved the Washington Nationals’ starting rotation from arguably the best to undoubtedly the best in baseball.

The Nats will enter the 2015 season with three No. 1 starters in Scherzer, Jordan Zimmermann and Stephen Strasburg, with Gio Gonzalez, Doug Fister and Tanner Roark “filling out” the staff. However, the Scherzer signing also led to speculation that the Nats now might be more inclined to trade from their pitching depth.

Jon Morosi of Fox Sports tweeted that Washington would be willing to deal either Zimmermann or Strasburg if they landed Scherzer, which makes sense, as Zimmermann is set to become a free agent after the 2015 season and likely to command a monster free-agent contract, while Strasburg is set to follow in his footsteps the following year.

But there’s one other major reason the Nationals seemingly are willing to consider dealing young talents such as Zimmermann and Strasburg: They have baseball’s top pitching prospect in 20-year-old right-hander Lucas Giolito.

Giolito was viewed as a candidate to go No. 1 overall in the 2012 draft after the right-hander lit up radar guns with his fastball and dropped jaws with his curveball early in the spring for Harvard-Westlake High School (California).

Unfortunately, Giolito suffered a strained ligament in his right elbow roughly two months into the season and was shut down indefinitely. He avoided surgery, but the injury ultimately cost Giolito the remainder of his high school campaign and the chance to be the first prep right-hander drafted No. 1 overall.

Yet even though Giolito missed most of the spring, the Washington Nationals still selected the right-hander with the No. 16 overall selection in the 2012 draft and offered him a $2.925 million signing bonus.

Making his first professional start later that summer, Giolito made it just two innings in the game before his elbow flared up once again. This time, however, there would be no rest and rehab, as he was forced to undergo season-ending Tommy John surgery.

After 10 months on the shelf, Giolito returned to the mound late in the 2013 season to post a 1.96 ERA with 39 strikeouts in 36.2 innings between the Gulf Coast and New York-Penn Leagues.

Suffice it to say, expectations were high for Giolito headed into 2014. Amazingly, the 20-year-old did not disappoint.

In his first full season back from surgery, not to mention his first full season as a professional, Giolito led the Low-A South Atlantic League (among pitchers with 90 innings) in ERA (2.20), strikeout percentage (28.5 percent) and opponents’ batting average (.196), per FanGraphs. The Nationals shut down the right-hander after 98 innings due to the organization’s protocol with young pitchers rehabbing from Tommy John surgery, according to Adam Kilgore of The Washington Post.

“Getting that first year out of the way, it was kind of a special situation for me,” Giolito said via Byron Kerr of “Because it was my first full year of pro ball and it was my first year back from Tommy John. Now I’m fully healthy and the surgery is well behind me. And I’m a little bit more experienced. I have been a pro for about three years now. I have a full year under my belt. I feel prepared for what’s next to come.”

When I saw Giolito make his second start of the 2014 season for Low-A Hagerstown, the 20-year-old fired five shutout innings against Low-A Lakewood, allowing one hit and one walk with six strikeouts.

He never threw more than 17 pitches in an inning and needed only 61 to complete the outing. The lone hit he surrendered was a two-out double to Samuel Hiciano in the third inning. Besides that, it was mostly strikeouts and weak contact (six groundouts, one flyout).

Giolito throws both a two- and four-seam fastball, with the latter consistently registering in the 94 to 96 mph range and the two-seamer at 91 to 93. Based on velocity alone, the pitch grades as a 65 or 70 (on the 20-80 scouting scale), but everything about Giolito—his size, mechanics, arm action, prior workload—suggests that more velocity will come with development. It doesn’t take much to envision him sitting in the upper 90s by the time he reaches the major leagues.

In terms of usage, Giolito throws more four-seamers to left-handed batters, and he does a nice job changing hitters’ eye levels vertically so as to set up both secondary offerings. He’ll overthrow a few of them over the course of a game, ripping open with his glove side and falling off toward first base, but he’s cognizant of his mechanics and therefore is quick to make adjustments during subsequent pitches.

Giolito’s curveball is possibly the best I’ve personally scouted in the last four years—a future 75 offering. Working from the same over-the-top arm angle as his fastball, he throws the pitch in the 76 to 83 mph range with legitimate 12-to-6 break and sharp, downer bite.

He shows the ability to add and subtract with the pitch depending on the batter and count, consistently throwing it 78 to 81 mph for a called strike and then throwing a harder-biting version at 82 to 83 mph when vying for a whiff.

Meanwhile, the consistency and effectiveness of Giolito’s changeup was a pleasant surprise last season. The right-hander threw the pitch only three times when I saw him in April, but each time, he delivered it with a deceptive arm action and good speed differential in the low 80s. Giolito’s changeup grades as at least a future grade-60 offering, giving him three pitches which project as above average or better at maturity.

Giolito spoke in depth with Kerr about the pitch:

The changeup, when I was throwing it in high school, it wasn’t really a pitch I went to. I didn’t really have a good feel for it. After surgery, it kind of just came to me. I came back from my throwing program and my changeup was already in the workings of being there. I could throw it consistently for a strike.

Since then, I have been hammering it out. I really feel that it’s one of my stronger pitches. It’s a go to pitch in any count. I threw it 3-1 and 2-0 a lot last year. I feel that when you throw (it) in those kind of situations, you have a lot of success.

A lot can happen to any 20-year-old pitcher between A-ball and the time he reaches the major leagues. In Giolito’s case, the right-hander should have the chance to be a legitimate No. 1 starter at maturity so long as he stays healthy and continues down his current developmental path.

Both Giolito and the Nationals say that the right-hander is 100 percent healthy heading into 2015. However, that doesn’t mean he’ll be rushed up the ladder to the major leagues—not even if the team ultimately decides to trade Zimmermann or Strasburg.

“We understand the development process for someone coming off his surgery,” said Mark Scialabba, the Nationals’ director of player development, via Chelsea Janes of The Washington Post.

“We have to understand there are still goals to reach. We are going to proceed like with our previous players who have gone through this surgery, but also understand that he’s a special, unique talent.”

The Nationals’ pitching depth, even if the team makes a trade, will allow them to develop Giolito cautiously and thoroughly. Therefore, he likely will begin 2015 at High-A Potomac in the Carolina League, and if all goes as planned with his development, the right-hander should log some time at Double-A Harrisburg, too.

The organization might play it by ear after that, but all signs point to Giolito reaching the major leagues sometime during the 2016 season.

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Ranking the Top Prospect for All 30 MLB Teams Entering 2015

Earlier today Prospect Pipeline completed our rankings of every organization’s top-10 prospects for the 2015 season. Now, it’s now time to go back and break down every club’s No. 1 prospect in the form of a team-by-team ranking.

In preparation for spring training as well as our official list of the top 100 prospects for the upcoming season, we’ve put together a tentative ranking of each team’s best prospect heading into 2015. Some of the scouting notes for each player have been derived from his original scouting report.

Here are our rankings of the top prospect for all 30 MLB teams entering 2015.

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