Now we move into the National League, starting in the East. This was a highly competitive division for half the season before the Nationals and Braves ran away from the pack. The Phillies look to rebound in 2013, while the Mets and Marlins, well, hopefully their future success will come from the prospects below.
In this article, I’m going to focus on prospects and some major league players that are spending their offseason playing winter league baseball. Many of these players are top prospects or could be potential trade pieces during this offseason.
Jose Constanza — A spark plug in the Braves’ lineup the past couple of years, Constanza is hitting .345 in 59 at-bats in the Dominican league. The speedster fits as a fourth outfielder for the Braves and could be a big help in center field this season if the Braves fail to make any moves.
Juan Francisco — The Braves would love to see this 25-year-old fulfill his potential and take over the vacant third base spot left by Chipper Jones. He definitely didn’t earn that job in 2012, but many coaches said his attitude and game improved down the stretch leaving hope that he could be the third baseman of the future. He’s batting .333 in 45 at-bats in the Dominican League and will definitely get a shot at the job in spring training if the team doesn’t sign someone.
Ernesto Mejia — This guy has crushed in the minors hitting 24 home runs in triple-A during 2012 and 26 in double-A in the 2011 season. The 27-year-old first baseman is staying hot in the Venezuelan League batting .316 in 114 at-bats with eight home runs and 23 RBIs. With the Braves set at first base for a while, I see this guy being traded soon, while his value is at an all-time high.
Nick Ahmed — This highly touted shortstop has been swirled in trade rumors recently, and he helped his stock playing in the Arizona Fall League (AFL). He hit .288 in 73 at-bats with three triples, five stolen bases and nine walks. He’s 22, and with the shortstop position also being filled for a while in Atlanta, I expect Ahmed to be traded soon as well.
Christian Bethancourt — Considered the Braves future catcher, Bethancourt missed a lot of time in 2012 due to injury and is trying to make up for that lost time in the Dominican League. He’s hitting .250 in just 24 at-bats with two doubles and no strikeouts. He’s still young at 21, but he could start the year as the Braves back-up catcher behind Gerald Laird depending on how his hand heals and his performance in spring training.
Zeke Spruill — Spruill was a second-round draft pick by the Braves in 2008 and has put together a solid minor league career. He started seven games in the AFL and posted a 3.63 ERA. He projects as a back-of-the-rotation starter, but could be a trade piece in the Braves’ pitching-heavy organization.
Jake Marisnick — One of the players in the Blue Jays deal, the 21-year-old outfielder tore it up in the AFL batting .314 in 72 at-bats. His strikeout numbers (20) are a bit scary, especially considering he only walked three times, but he could be a future outfielder for the Marlins.
Kyle Jensen — Jensen spent 2012 in double-A where he struggled, but he has bounced back to have a great AFL showing, hitting .330 in 91 at-bats with five home runs and 19 RBIs. At 24, Jensen could be playing in the big leagues soon.
Christian Yelich — Yet another outfield prospect for the Marlins, Yelich (21) was a first-round draft pick in 2010 and batted .330 in high-A ball this year. Through 93 at-bats in the AFL, he hit .301 with six doubles. A can’t-miss prospect who figures to be in the Marlins outfield by 2014.
Marcell Ozuna — I should have just done an article on Marlins outfield prospects; Ozuna is 22 and has some massive power potential. He’s hit 22, 23 and 24 home runs in his past three minor league seasons. Through 86 at-bats in the Dominican League, he’s knocked eight out of the park. He profiles as a corner outfielder/DH type. He has major trade potential.
Gorkys Hernandez — Someone who figures to be in the Marlins outfield in 2013, Hernandez is batting .320 in 97 at-bats in the Venezuelan League with 14 walks and six stolen bases.
Scott McGough — The 23-year-old right handed bullpen arm allowed two runs in 16 innings in the AFL. He gave up 12 hits and struck out eight.
New York Mets
Wilmer Flores — This 21-year-old shortstop may need to find a new position as he’s stuck behind Ruben Tejada, but he’s making a case for a major league roster spot by hitting .311 in double-A and .333 in the Venezuelan League in 90 at-bats. Not much of a stolen base guy, so third could be his spot, which means he could be trade bait after they Mets lock up David Wright.
Jordany Valdespin — Valdespin is listed as a second baseman but played some outfield for the Mets in 2012. He added some energy at the top of the lineup, and he hopes to break camp as a utility man or fourth outfielder for the Mets. In the Dominican League, he’s currently hitting .277 in 47 at-bats with 10 walks.
Adam Kolarek — This 23-year-old lefty was taken in the 11th round of the 2010 draft and has worked his way up to double-A. He represented the Mets in the AFL and held his own posting a 2.92 ERA in 12.1 innings.
Armando Rodriguez — In 14.2 innings in the Dominican League, Rodriguez has only allowed three hits and three earned runs. He has struck out 10, but he’s also walked 10. He finished the year at triple-A, and the 24-year-old righty might be ready for the big leagues.
Zach Collier — A 22-year-old outfielder who was taken in the first round in 2008, Collier had an impressive showing in the AFL batting .371 in 62 at-bats with 12 walks and three triples. He hasn’t been impressive in the minors and finished the season at high-A ball where he hit .269, but hopefully this gets him going and he’ll continue his progression in double-A next year.
Edgar Duran — At the ripe age of 21, Duran sets up to be the heir to Jimmy Rollins, but he’s yet to make it above high-A and hasn’t put up great numbers. Through 59 at-bats in the Venezuelan League though, he’s hitting .339 with five doubles.
Freddy Galvis — Galvis spent much of the year filling in for Chase Utley before testing positive for a PED. The 23-year-old is spending his winter in the Venezuelan League, where he’s hitting .316 in 114 at-bats.
Darin Ruf — Ruf mashed 38 home runs in double-A this year before getting a chance in the majors, where he hit .333 in 33 at-bats with three home runs. At 26, he’s a bit old to be a prospect, but Ryan Howard was pretty old too when he busted out.
Cody Asche — A potential long-term solution at third base for the Phillies, Asche finished the year at double-A before getting a chance to go to the AFL where he hit .281 in 89 at-bats with 11 doubles. He’s 22 and could be called up as soon as this year.
Anthony Rendon — The sixth overall pick in the 2011 draft, Rendon moved through the system quickly this year — all the way from the Gulf Coast League to the Nationals double-A affiliate. He only registered 133 at-bats in 2012, but hit six home runs and walked 23 times for an OBP of .363. In the AFL, he hit .338 with 10 doubles, 15 walks and an OBP of .436. The Nationals could have a dilemma at third base in the future.
Matt Skole — Another third baseman in the Nats organization, Skole played first base in the AFL where he hit .305 in 59 at-bats with three home runs, 15 RBIs and 13 walks. He’s 23 and finished the season at high-A. Could be the Nats first baseman of the future.
Carlos Rivero — Seems every team in the NL East has a lot of depth at one position. Another third baseman, Rivero (24) spent 2012 in triple-A where he hit .303. In the Venezuelan league he is currently hitting .286 in 112 at bats with six home runs. Could be a solid backup for Ryan Zimmerman, or a potential trade chip.
Erik Davis — The 26-year-old righty is trying to prove he deserves a spot in the Nats bullpen by posting a 0.63 ERA through 14.1 innings in the Dominican league. He’s only allowed eight hits and struck out 14.