Tag: Prospect Pipeline

2015 MLB Draft Prospects: Ranking the Top Sleeper at Every Position

With the NCAA regionals set to begin on Friday, fans will soon have the opportunity to view some of the top draft prospects in the 2015 class, whether it is college shortstops Dansby Swanson and Alex Bregman, prep outfielder Daz Cameron, left-handed pitcher Tyler Jay or right-hander Carson Fulmer.

However, this year’s crop of talent—which we explored in depth earlier this week—extends far beyond the aforementioned college standouts, and with 40 rounds of drafting over a three-day period, teams will have plenty of opportunities to find value where others don’t.

With that in mind, we’re going to break down the top sleeper candidates for the upcoming draft, focusing on one prospect at each position who isn’t getting the publicity or fanfare he deserves but projects well at the next level.

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MLB Prospects Who Are Taking Biggest Steps Forward, Backward This Year

Because the baseball season is so long, it’s often unwise to put too much stock in early-season performances before teams and players have a chance to find themselves. This is particularly true for prospects, who can be even more volatile while needing even more time to figure things out.

The other angle, however, is that these young players have provided less to go on in their still-nascent careers—they are prospects for a reason—making any noticeable change in production that much more stark.

On the pages to follow, there are 10 prospects whose early 2015 performances stand out—for better or for worse—and could indicate a new path.

Keep in mind that these players are still eligible as prospects—meaning, they have not exceeded 130 at-bats or 50 innings pitched in the majors—and also are currently in the minors. That rules out, say, Preston Tucker, the Houston Astros outfielder who was leading the minors in home runs and RBI at the time of his call-up this week to help cover while George Springer is out.

Here’s another key, not-to-be-glossed-over aspect to all of this: In finding prospects who are taking big steps forward so far, the choices were limited only to those who either struggled or were hurt last year; conversely, in picking youngsters who are taking big steps backward to date, the criteria considers only those highly regarded players who were good and healthy in 2014.

In other words, there’s no Carlos Correa or Corey Seager here. Both are off to fantastic starts that could be called steps forward, but they already were great in the first place. Same goes for others such as, say, Alex Reyes, Steven Matz and Raimel Tapia, who were good in 2014 and look even better in 2015; or Robert Stephenson, Lucas Sims and Chris Stratton, who were shaky last year and haven’t done much about it yet this season.

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Uber-Prospect Carlos Correa Looks Ready to Fill Astros’ Shortstop Hole in MLB

The Carlos Correa countdown is on. The Houston Astros—check that, the AL West-leading Houston Astros, who sport the best record in the American League at 18-8 entering play Tuesday—suddenly find themselves in a position where promoting their young shortstop and No. 1 prospect to the majors might come sooner than expected and would make plenty of sense for a few reasons.

First, there’s the recent injury to Jed Lowrie, the club’s starting shortstop who will be out until after the All-Star break with a torn ligament in his right thumb, according to Evan Drellich of the Houston Chronicle.

Lowrie was playing very well in his return to the Astros, hitting .300/.432/.567 in 18 games. His loss means Houston has been forced to try to hold down the fort at short by turning to the likes of Jonathan Villar and Marwin Gonzalez, neither of whom is worthy of starting at the position for a team that actually is looking to return to relevance, if not contention in 2015.

Speaking of which, reason No. 2 has to do with just that. The Astros, of course, have been undergoing a necessary and extremely lengthy rebuilding process in recent years. They are coming off six straight losing seasons, tying them with the New York Mets for the longest active stretch of nonwinning campaigns in baseball.

During that time, questions, concerns and criticisms have come to the forefront over the approach and when—or even if—Houston finally would turn it around. A lot can happen over the course of a six-month baseball season, but if the first portion of 2015 is any indication, that turnaround is underway.

Yes, the Astros are winning for a change, off to a hot start that has them with—get this—the largest division lead in baseball at the moment. Houston is already a whopping seven games ahead of the Los Angeles Angels and Seattle Mariners (11-15) in an AL West where the other four clubs have to try to claw their way back to .500 before they can set their sights on the ‘Stros.

And the third reason why the Correa countdown is ticking? Well, Correa himself.

One of the elite prospects in the game, Correa was the No. 1 overall pick in 2012 and was ranked among the top five—in fact, the top four—by each of Baseball America, Baseball Prospectus, ESPN and MLB.com at the outset of spring training.

The 20-year-old keeps killing the ball at Double-A Corpus Christi. Through 23 games, he’s hitting .383/.458/.702 with 21 runs, 13 doubles, five home runs, 25 RBI and 11 stolen bases, while striking out only 18.7 percent of the time and walking 11.2 percent.

Here’s where we pause and suggest you reread those numbers, because: Wow. To put them in context, Correa is leading the Texas League in—deep breath—batting average, slugging percentage, on-base-plus slugging percentage, runs scored, hits and doubles.

As for on-base percentage, homers, RBI and stolen bases, he’s merely in the top four. Oh, and he has made but one error while playing all but one game at short, with the other coming as designated hitter.

All that, and Correa is the third-youngest player in the circuit, as only lefty Julio Urias of the Los Angeles Dodgers and outfielder Nomar Mazara of the Texas Rangers were born after him.

“Carlos is going to be a star player in the big leagues,” general manager Jeff Luhnow said when the Astros sent Correa down to the minor league camp during spring training. “It’s just a matter of time.”

Luhnow wrapped up that media session with the following statement: “We feel good about the squad that we’re going to take to Houston to start the season with. And we feel good about the protection and the players we’ll have available to us [in the minors], should an injury occur or a need arise.”

Well, a need has arisen, and Correa has performed as well as any player possibly could through the first turn of the season. But that doesn’t mean the Astros are ready to push the envelope by pushing their stud youngster all the way to the majors—at least not quite yet—even if he’s looking more and more ready by the day.

“He’s definitely a special player, so his time will come faster than it would for other guys,” Luhnow told Drellich in the aftermath of Lowrie‘s injury. “But…he’s got 70 at-bats above Class A, and we feel like he needs some more.”

Which raises the question: Had Correa not lost half of 2014 when he fractured his right fibula sliding into third base last June, would he be in Houston instead of Corpus Christi right now?

While the Astros, like most clubs, prefer their most valuable prospects go through all levels of the minors, including Triple-A, other phenoms like Clayton Kershaw, Giancarlo Stanton and Manny Machado have been bumped from Double-A straight to MLB at age 20 in recent years and found success, if not immediately then fairly soon thereafter. Correa is very much in the same class as those three were at the time of their promotions.

Another young player who made that jump?

“[Jose] Altuve never had Triple-A time, and he did OK,” Luhnow said, per Drellich. “[But] those at-bats that Correa is taking at Double-A, he’s not wasting his time there. He’s learning stuff, we’re evaluating, and it’s all helping toward the ultimate goal of getting him to the big leagues and having him help the team.”

Often with prospects, patience is prudent, if not imperative. But the forces seem to be aligning just so between Lowrie‘s injury and the way the Astros and Correa are playing so far.

The countdown is on.


Statistics are accurate through Monday, May 4, and courtesy of MLB.comBaseball-Reference.com and FanGraphs, unless otherwise noted.

To talk baseball or fantasy baseball, check in with me on Twitter:@JayCat11.

Read more MLB news on BleacherReport.com

7 Top MLB Prospects Who Won’t Live Up to Sky-High 2015 Expectations

It’s hard to not get excited when projecting the future impacts of baseball’s top prospects. Unfortunately, with that excitement usually come unreasonable expectations, which, when not met, can cause younger players to be unfairly perceived as “disappointments.”

These players won’t necessarily have bad years, but it might be difficult for them to live up to the high expectations ascribed to them at the beginning of the season. Of course, expectations for prospects come in all different shapes and sizes, as one player might be expected to make an impact in the major leagues, while another is expected to prove he belongs at a certain level in the minors.

With all that said, here are seven top MLB prospects who won’t live up to sky-high expectations in 2015.

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Hidden Under Kris Bryant Hype, Addison Russell Is Future MLB Superstar

The Chicago Cubs aren’t messing around.

Days after calling up uberprospect Kris Bryant, the Cubs called up phenom Addison Russell on Tuesday, a move that Jon Heyman of CBS Sports first reported.

Russell was in Pittsburgh for Tuesday night’s game and made his major league debut at second base.

While the news of Russell’s promotion comes as a surprise, there had been growing speculation that the Cubs might turn to the 21-year-old sooner rather than later after shifting him from shortstop to second base late last week. However, few expected him to get the call this soon.

Entering Tuesday, Cubs second basemen ranked last in the major leagues with a dismal .369 OPS and were yet to collect an extra-base hit. And with Javier Baez on the bereavement list (and in the minor leagues), Tommy La Stella on the disabled list and both Jonathan Herrera and Arismendy Alcantara not producing, it was clear some sort of change needed to happen.

The decision to promote Russell, whom the team acquired from the Athletics last July in the Jeff Samardzija trade, on April 21 indicates team president Theo Epstein and general manager Jed Hoyer believe he gives them the best chance to win moving forward. More importantly, it confirms that the organization has its sights set on a postseason berth in 2015.

With Russell, it’s not a question of whether his game is ready for the major leagues. Rather, his opening the season in the minor leagues had more to do with the Cubs’ logjam at both middle infield positions.

Russell had a great showing during spring training in his first camp with the Cubs, as he batted .317/.349/.488 with one home run, four doubles and six RBI in 13 games while playing exceptional defense at shortstop. Yet, with the aforementioned names ahead of him on the organizational depth chart, the 21-year-old found himself assigned to Triple-A Iowa to begin the season.

“I couldn’t tell him what to work on,” manager Joe Maddon said about Russell, per Carrie Muskat of MLB.com, in late March after the team assigned him to Triple-A Iowa. “He’s that accomplished at that age. I told him, ‘Just keep doing what you’re doing.'”

And that’s exactly what he did: At the time of his call-up, Russell was batting .318/.326/.477 with one homer and four doubles through 46 plate appearances.

Epstein mentioned last Friday—the day of Bryant’s major league debut—that he was pleased with Russell’s start to the season, but he didn’t hint as to what the future might hold for the youngster.

“He’s playing very well,” Epstein told Jesse Rogers of ESPN.com. “He hasn’t been at Triple-A all that long (seven games). But he’s playing great. He’s been having great at-bats, using the whole field. He’s played outstanding at shortstop the first week of the season. He’ll continue to develop at Triple-A, and we’ll see what happens.”

Russell may be young and inexperienced, but there’s little doubt about whether his tools and skills will translate immediately in the major leagues.

Here is my evaluation of Russell’s skills at the plate, from our 100 MLB future stars list April 15:

As a 6’0”, 200-pound right-handed hitter, Russell makes a lot of hard contact thanks to his plus bat speed and innate bat-to-ball skills. And he’s really started driving the ball to all fields with authority over the last year. …

Russell’s combination of plus bat speed and a deep point of contact should produce 20-25 home runs at the highest level, possibly more if he can convert some of his ground-ball outs and strikeouts into fly balls.

Defensively, Russell started just five games at second base for Iowa before his promotion, but there’s every reason to believe he’ll be able to learn the position and make adjustments on the go at the highest level.

For starters, Russell is already a better defender than Starlin Castro, argues ESPN.com’s Keith Law, and it’s long been believed that the former would eventually force the latter off shortstop:

Russell is the best shortstop of the entire group, so his arrival could hasten a chain of position switches with Baez going to third and Bryant to right field. It also could put Starlin Castro, who is showing signs of life with the bat again, on the trade block in the next 12 months, depending on Russell’s health and progress in the minors.

More specifically, Russell’s plus athleticism and quick feet give him incredible lateral range and result in many highlight-reel plays, and he’s become especially slick when charging the ball. In general, he plays the position with a lot of confidence and creativity, two qualities that will aid his transition to second base moving forward.

Now that he’s arrived, it’s a safe bet that Russell will be in the lineup almost every day, because, well, he’s simply that good. Plus, it’s hard to imagine the Cubs front office would promote the 21-year-old at the beginning of a crucial developmental year and not offer him everyday at-bats.

Russell, like teammates Bryant and Jorge Soler, isn’t a finished product, per se, and therefore will inevitably endure some growing pains at the highest level. However, all three players truly are special talents with seemingly infinite potential, and the Cubs are wise to allow their elite prospects to go through their final developmental stages in the major leagues.

Read more MLB news on BleacherReport.com

5 Fantasy Baseball Sleepers to Grab Before They’re Household Names

Back in spring training, before the real fake games began, as it were, we provided two sets of sleepers. It’s time for a few more.

The first was a batch of 25 names to know, primarily for shallow leagues. The second set comprised 20 more players who qualified as even deeper sleepers.

Well, this is where we, inspired by Friday’s promotion of stud prospect Kris Bryant, provide you, dear fantasy owner, with yet another select group of all new players who could go from under the radar to household names—as in, someone even your parents might have heard of soon enough—ideally before the first half of the 2015 season is over.

That eliminates several top prospects, like Carlos Correa, Corey Seager, Joey Gallo Miguel Sano and Byron Buxton, who likely are a bit too far off for first-half impact.

It also removes all players who already have been written up as sleepers by yours truly, including, hot-starting rookie Joc Pederson of the Los Angeles Dodgers, New York Mets top pitching prospect Noah Syndergaard or even Danny Salazar, the electric-yet-enigmatic right-hander who will be called up to start for the Cleveland Indians this weekend.

That said, you might want to start telling mom and dad about these five players who are positioned to become soon-to-be stars. You know, right after you grab and stash ’em on your fantasy roster.

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MLB’s Top 5 Hitting Prospects at Each Minor League Level

The 2015 Minor League Baseball season kicked off Thursday, with games being played across all four full-season levels. The day was full of standout performances from many of baseball’s most promising young hitters.

Making his full-season debut with Low-A Greenville, 2014 first-round draft pick Michael Chavis (No. 26 overall) cranked a game-tying home run in the seventh inning and then came back in the ninth to deliver a walk-off double.

Minnesota Twins third base prospect Miguel Sano, who missed the entire 2014 season after undergoing Tommy John surgery, played in a game for the first time since late 2013 and picked up where he left off with a solo home run.

And while he’s not much of a prospect, we’d be remiss not to mention the Opening Day performance of New York Yankees outfield prospect Ramon Flores, who hit for the cycle as part of a 4-for-4 performance that included three runs scored, two RBI and a walk.

With all that said, here are five must-follow hitters from each full-season level who will put up big numbers in 2015.

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What Yoan Moncada Must Prove in the Minors to Become MLB-Ready

The hype and excitement that surrounded Yoan Moncada and his decision to sign with the Boston Red Sox in February have turned mostly to anticipation and expectation as the Cuban phenom embarks upon his first season in America.

A 19-year-old infielder, Moncada landed a $31.5 million deal—a record for an international amateur free agent under the current system—and is considered the top teenager to leave Cuba since Chicago Cubs outfielder Jorge Soler in 2011. Moncada’s talent level would put him on par with a No. 1 overall draft pick if he were eligible to be drafted.

As Jim Callis of MLB.com put it:

If he were eligible for the 2015 First-Year Player Draft, Moncada would be a strong contender to go No. 1 overall to the D-backs. His overall 65 grade [on the 20-80 scouting scale] would place him among the top dozen prospects in baseball right now, and it’s arguably a bit conservative, because teams haven’t had the chance to evaluate him against much quality competition.

But for now, the baseball world will have to wait.

Although he does have two seasons in Cuba’s top professional league, the Serie Nacional, Moncada’s skills won’t be on display as the minor-league season opens this week. He has been assigned to extended spring training at the Red Sox’s Florida base in Fort Myers, according to Alex Speier of The Boston Globe:

Moncada is not among the players assigned to Single A Greenville to start the year, though the decision had little to do with the second baseman’s baseball skills. He’s viewed as being ready to compete in full-season ball to start his pro career, and indeed, he’ll likely join Greenville in the relatively near future—perhaps in a matter of weeks.

Greenville is Boston’s Low-A affiliate, which is rather conservative given that Moncada likely could handle High-A or possibly even Double-A at the outset based purely on his ability.

The main reason for the safe assignment? Moncada is extremely young—he’ll turn 20 at the end of May—and as talented as he is, he’s going to have quite an adjustment period. After all, he’s transitioning to a new organization, league and level of competition—not to mention a new language, country and culture.

The primary focus for Moncada and the Red Sox in 2015 will be on adjustment and acclimation. 

Here’s more from Speier:

The absence of significant travel in extended spring training (where games entail no more than same-day round trips on buses) permits a greater opportunity for the player to get his bearings and to take advantage of elements such as English classes while engaging in other forms of cultural assimilation that will become more challenging once Moncada is with a full-season affiliate. Those factors took primacy in the decision to have the Cuban open the year in Fort Myers.

On the field, Moncada will have two elements to home in on. One will be his offensehis switch-hitting in particular. While reports indicate Moncada’s hit tool and power are above-average to plus—he slashed .277/.388/.380 in two Serie Nacional seasons at ages 17 and 18—he does have to make sure he maintains his swing from each side, which requires twice the effort.

“The guy has different bat speed from everyone else, period,” a scout told Ben Badler of Baseball America. “It’s a beautiful swing too from the left side, which is better than his right-handed swing.”

The other aspect is related to defensespecifically, his position on the diamond. Moncada clarified soon after signing that second base is his preferred spot, according to Kiley McDaniel of FanGraphs, but he’ll likely play multiple spots so the Red Sox can see where he fits best.

Plus, Dustin Pedroia is locked in at the keystone through the 2021 season.

Perhaps above all else, Moncada will have to learn to live with the attention, hype and expectations that have followed him since the beginning of this past offseason and have grown since he signed his record deal—and will only amplify as he begins his career in the minors.

“My goal is to … make it to the major leagues as fast as I can,” Moncada told Jesse Sanchez of MLB.com prior to signing.

With Moncada’s athleticism, offensive profile, and versatile defensive skill set, he’s primed to make that happen. He just has to take care of a few things first.


Statistics are accurate through Thursday, April 9, and come from MLB.com, Baseball-Reference.com and FanGraphs.com, except where otherwise noted.

To talk baseball or fantasy baseball, check in with me on Twitter: @JayCat11

Read more MLB news on BleacherReport.com

10 Unknown MLB Prospects Who Will Take a Huge Leap Forward in 2015

With all the access and information—and accessible information—out there now compared to even a few short years ago, it’s harder that ever to come across a prospect who can truly be classified as “unknown.” But we’ll try to highlight a batch of somewhat-off-the-radar youngsters who are primed to take a big step in their development in 2015.

To that extent, any prospect who made a top-100 list for Baseball America, Baseball Prospectus, ESPN or MLB.com was not eligible.

In short, we’re trying to uncover the next big thing to become the next big thing.

For context, some prospects who might have qualified for a list like this a year ago include Dalton Pompey (Toronto Blue Jays), Nomar Mazara (Texas Rangers), Manuel Margot (Boston Red Sox), Dilson Herrera (New York Mets) and Luis Severino (New York Yankees).

With further improvements and a little luck, these 10 lesser-known prospects could put themselves on the map.

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Predicting 5 Top Prospects Who Will Fall Short in Opening Day Roster Push

One of the hottest topics of this spring training centers around Kris Bryant, the Chicago Cubs’ uber-prospect who is blowing up and lapping the field with nine home runs during the exhibition season so far.

In case you’re wondering, no other player has more than five homers.

The shame of it is, Bryant has become such a story not because of the hype and buzz he has created with his mammoth power and promising career about to get underway, but because he probably won’t start the 2015 regular season in the majors.

The Cubs can couch that likelihood all they want, saying Bryant still needs a little more Triple-A time to improve his ability to make contact at the plate or his defense at third base and/or in the outfield. But it’s no secret that the underlying reason why Bryant might not debut until late April is because doing so allows Chicago to tack on an extra year of team control through the 2021 campaign.

But what about other nearly MLB-ready prospects who are still in big league camps and on the verge of getting to The Show?

Some rookies-to-be are positioned to be in the bigs at the start of the 2015 season, like Joc Pederson of the Los Angeles Dodgers, the Toronto Blue Jays’ Daniel Norris, Aaron Sanchez and Dalton Pompey, and Jorge Soler, Bryant’s soon-to-be Cubs teammate.

There are many prospects, though, who are this-close to the majors but ultimately might not be there on Opening Day for any number of reasons, from the need for more development in the minors to service time machinations to mediocre spring performances.

And despite strong showings, Francisco Lindor of the Cleveland Indians, Corey Seager of the Los Angeles Dodgers and the Texas Rangers’ Joey Gallo already have been sent down. We could—and probably should—see all three of them before 2015 is up.

But remember, not being there on Opening Day doesn’t mean these top youngsters won’t be there—and making an impact—soon enough.

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