Among last year’s top prospects, several failed to emerge as adequate big-league players when their numbers were called. While the sample size is too marginal to be taken for granted, this will be a make or break year for several MLB prospects ranked between number 20 and 11.
At any rate, the ceiling for these ball players remains high. It wasn’t too long ago when Mike Trout received his initial call-up and struggled tremendously. With plenty of experience to gain and talent to cultivate, this group of MLB prospects looks as if it could put a major dent into baseball in the coming years.
20. C Travis d’Arnaud – New York Mets
As one of the older MLB prospects to crack this list, questions concerning d’Arnaud’s health remain. In 2010, D’Arnaud missed plenty of time due to bulging discs in his back. He then tore his posterior cruciate ligament (PCL) in 2012 and missed most of the year. In a few quick seasons, d’Arnaud is now in his third organization but still carrying unlimited potential. At 23 years old, the window may be closing on d’Arnaud to make an impact on the big league level. Many suspect this heavy-hitting catcher needs to move to another position in order to maintain his health. Regardless, there is plenty to like about a catcher who can hit 16 home runs in just 303 plate appearances.
19. RHP Jameson Taillon – Pittsburgh Pirates
After striking out 116 batters in 142 innings between single-A advanced and double-A, people were wondering if Taillon was honing in on his skills or taking a step back. It’s smart for Taillon to adapt to what pitching at the major league level will be like. After all, he will not be able to blow the ball by the batter. Taillon’s curveball appears to be a solid number-two option, and watching how well his change-up develops in 2013 will be tantalizing. Still, Taillon is likely one year away from reaching the bigs, but when his number is called, he will immediately be slotted into the starting rotation.
18. RHP Trevor Bauer – Cleveland Indians
The buzz around Bauer leaves the impression scouts are down on him. While he does have a funky delivery that poses an increased risk for injury, there is a reason why Bauer has been an elite prospect since being drafted third overall in 2011. Remember, Bauer is just two years removed from collegiate ball. Don’t get down on him yet. The trade that sent Bauer to Cleveland will give him an opportunity to open 2013 with the big league club. A quick look at his MLB debut with Arizona last year will leave you unimpressed, but Bauer did post a 9.37 strikeout rate per nine innings pitched. While he is on the fringe of having ace potential, further development coupled with big-league experience should bode well for Bauer’s future.
17. 3B/1B Mike Olt – Texas Rangers
Olt also made his MLB debut in 2012. While it was much anticipated, he flopped on offense and with his glove. The problem for Olt is the lack of a clear pathway for him to land a fulltime gig in Arlington. Olt struck out one in every three at bats while showing a lack of power. Remember, Olt slugged 28 home runs in 420 plate appearances in double-A last season. That did not translate with the big-league club. However, it’s foolish to dismiss Olt’s potential due to a minute sample size. The probability of Olt being a solid bat in the majors still looms, but playing time may be hard to come by barring an array of injuries or trade. Still, the power surge Olt had in the minors is not negligible. However, the fact that Olt will turn 25 in August is a bit concerning.
16. OF Byron Buxton – Minnesota Twins
The second overall pick in the 2012 MLB Draft, Buxton possesses a ton of obvious upside. With the current state of affairs in Minnesota, the Twins will take their time in ensuring he develops into their next Torii Hunter. Simply put, Buxton is an athlete. He has raw power and his defensive relies on his speed and glove. Buxton was labeled as a five-tool player coming out of high school. Regardless, he made his debut last year with the Gulf Coast League Twins and struggled in 102 plate appearances. He did hit four home runs, but those numbers are inconsequential until we see a full season of development for Buxton.
15. RHP Taijuan Walker – Seattle Mariners
This ranking may ultimately be a little low for Walker, and by May, I will probably regret not having him in the top 10. A physically demanding presence on the mound, Walker pitches with high velocity and a deceptive curveball; his downhill approach to the hitter is intimidating to say the least. On paper, Walker does not look like an elite pitching prospect, but as we all know, stats aren’t everything. Walker will have another year to strengthen his slender frame, which will have a positive effect on his already menacing velocity.
14. OF Nick Castellanos – Detroit TigersCastellanos was at one time considered an elite third base prospect. Not anymore. With Miguel Cabrera holding down the hot corner, Castellanos has shifted to right field. However, he still is blocked due to the crowded outfield in Detroit. That may not matter for the immediate future though. Detroit is taking a patient approach to developing Castellanos. He has yet to show the power he was projected to have, but that may come as he develops into a stronger frame. At 6’-4”, Castellanos still weighs in at less than 200 pounds. Either way, the future is bright for Detroit in right field, as long as Castellanos maintains his ability to hit for average and taps into his power potential. A late 2013 call-up is likely but 2014 may be the year he gets his shot.
13. C Mike Zunino – Seattle Mariners
After being selected third overall in the 2012 draft, Zunino went on a rapid ascent throughout the Mariners farm system, landing with the double-A club 70 days later. Zunino’s ascent is not typical for a catcher, but it was well worth it. With double-A Jackson, he hit .333 with three home runs in 57 plate appearances. His relatively low strikeout rate per nine innings of 12.3 percent was fascinating as well. The enigmatic nature of Zunino’s rise is compelling, but he will still not see any MLB action until late 2013 at the earliest. A full slate of double- and triple-A action will be very telling.
12. SS Carlos Correa – Houston Astros
The first overall pick in the 2012 MLB Draft, Correa made history by becoming the highest drafted Puerto Rican high school player ever. Between rookie league Greenville and the Gulf Coast Astros, Correa displayed a bit of the intangibles he has at shortstop. The excitement surrounding Correa is warranted, but he is also a long journey away from reaching the majors. Some have compared him to Troy Tulowitzki, while others believe he could end up at third base down the line. If Correa performs as projected, he could be the critical piece to the rebuilding effort that gives Houston a competitive major league team in three to four years.
11. SS Xander Bogaerts – Boston Red Sox
A year between double-A and triple-A will give Bogaerts the needed time to supplant Stephen Drew at shortstop. However, the Aruban infielder has seen time at third base this spring. With Will Middlebrooks expected to grasp the hot corner for the foreseeable future, Bogaerts projects better at shortstop. Just 20 years old, Bogaerts has time to fill out his frame and increase the pop in his bat. Being more patient at the plate without giving up his strong confidence will be a crucial element to his game going forward. Defensively, he has improved. With Drew’s injury history, Bogaerts could see MLB time in 2013, but opening 2014 with the big-league club is the most likely scenario.
The final installment of the 2013 top 50 MLB prospects continues the countdown with no. 10 through no. 1. By now, these prospects are household names but several question marks do exist. As expected, Dylan Bundy, Jurickson Profar and Wil Myers crack the list.