2013 top 50 MLB prospects countdown: 10-1

MLB prospect Oscar Taveras takes a swing and watches.
St. Louis Cardinals’ Oscar Taveras tops the chart of MLB prospects. (David Welker/Four Seam Images)

The top 50 MLB prospects thus far have given us an idea of the direction several franchises are going. The Chicago Cubs, for example, have several young prospects who are providing a foundation for the organization. Led by Jorge Soler, the Cubs are looking to eclipse their wretched run of no championship rings since 1908 sometime in the near future.

On the other hand, there’s not a single mention of the Philadelphia Phillies in this series. What is their development ambitions? Will they continue down a path of selling their top prospects high for MLB-ready players? Alternatively, has time run its course with a bankrupt farm system?

Finally, the St. Louis Cardinals are the epitome of how an organization should be operated. From top to bottom, the Cardinals are perennial pennant contenders, while also maintaining one of the best farm systems baseball has ever seen. This series has highlighted several Cardinals prospects — from Matt Adams to Carlos Martinez and Trevor Rosenthal. As you will see, even two more Cardinals have landed on the top MLB prospects list.

The next generation is here — the top 10 MLB prospects. All but one of these 10 will have an impact at the big-league level in 2013. Some of the names you know, some you may not. Consensus around the baseball world stabilizes with this 10. Alternatively, the top overall prospect may not be who you think it is.

What are you waiting for? Harlem Shake videos had their 15 minutes of fame. It’s time for baseball.

10. 3B Miguel Sano – Minnesota Twins

Sano faced scrutiny upon signing with the Twins in 2009. The Dominican-born player claimed to be 16 years old, but others have suggested otherwise. Regardless, Sano possesses raw power from the right side of the plate that is reminiscent of fellow Dominican star Edwin Encarnacion. He combined for 48 HR the last two seasons in low-ball, while displaying mature plate patience. However, he still struck out at a higher than appropriate rate. The only minor leaguers who swing a better bat than Sano are the three ranked ahead of him. He’s two years away from reaching the big-league club due to his defensive liabilities. Then again, the Twins are in no position to rush the 19-year-old. A move to first base could be worked into the plans in order to shield his deficiency. A cornerstone for what the Twins expect to become in two to three years, Sano has the raw power kids playing on sandlots imagine they have.

9. RHP Jose Fernandez – Miami Marlins

After making headlines earlier this spring for beaning slugger Giancarlo Stanton in the head (on accident of course), Fernandez appears to have settled in. He looks sharp, but the prospect of him landing a gig for opening day is slim to none. Rather, Fernandez will start in the minors and work his way into the rotation at some point near the All-Star break. With a menacing repertoire, Fernandez has ace potential. His fastball peaks out near 98 mph, and his ability to maintain that velocity as the game wears on remains. The downside to Fernandez is he may not be ready to withstand the rigors of the game yet. Questions remain concerning his ability to adjust to hitters as they adjust to him. However, no one can disregard the upside of Fernandez. He remains a prospect who could easily maintain a strikeout rate of more than one per inning.

8. RHP Zack Wheeler – New York Mets

Already announced to begin the year at triple-A, Wheeler has the upside of an ace. There’s no doubt Wheeler will see action at the big-league level in 2013, but the financial makeup of baseball may push his debut into July. With a good fastball and solid secondary pitches, Wheeler knows how to mitigate around hitters. His “inverted-w” throwing motion is a concern though. Therefore, working more on his mechanics could alleviate future elbow (and UCL) issues. Another concern for Wheeler is his strikeout rate has recessed at each level he has progressed to. Managing his control and not looking to just blow back the hitter will work towards Wheeler establishing sustained success. Traded from San Francisco in the deal that sent Carlos Beltran to the bay, Wheeler should form a formidable top-of-the-rotation duo with fellow Mets pitcher Matt Harvey for years to come.

7. OF Wil Myers – Tampa Bay Rays

Kansas City believed it could challenge the Detroit Tigers in the AL Central, therefore, they traded the second-best hitting prospect in all of baseball to Tampa Bay. While the Royals did acquire James Shields and Wade Davis, they sent a cornerstone of what their offense could be to the Rays. With financial liabilities a concern in St. Petersburg, Myers will have to wait until July to debut with the Rays. The unquestioned power of Myers has many people hopeful of what this right-handed hitter can do. In 591 plate appearances between double and triple-A last season, Myers mashed 37 HR, 109 RBI while hitting .328. It’s a disservice to baseball that we will have to wait for Myers, but it will be worth it.

6. LHP Tyler Skaggs – Arizona Diamondbacks

Competing for the fifth spot in the Diamondbacks opening-day rotation, Skaggs has shown the good and the bad thus far this spring. However, his elite work ethic coupled with the skill set he possesses makes it likely that Skaggs is just waiting in the wings until his number is called. After all, the D-backs have one of the more pronounced rotations in baseball. With just 52.2 innings pitched at the triple-A level, there is no reason to rush Skaggs up to a fulltime MLB role. Skaggs made his debut with Arizona last season, but it was rather unimpressive to say the least. While we had hoped to see more, he struggled. Skaggs allowed 30 hits and 19 earned runs, while only striking out 19 in 29.1 innings pitched. As a southpaw, Skaggs still has ace potential, but more development at the triple-A level will help him hone is skills.

5. RHP Gerrit Cole – Pittsburgh Pirates

The last top-flight pitching prospect to come from the Pirates was Zach Duke. We all know how that turned out. However, Cole is cut from a different cloth. Excitement abounds at the confines of PNC Park because they finally have a legitimate arm who can possibly right the ship for Pittsburgh. With a fastball that touches 100 mph and a couple complimentary pitches in the works, Cole has the potential to be an ace for a long time. While his command has been on and off at times, his 9.3 strikeouts per nine innings in 2012 is something to write home about. If Cole can whet his command a tad and polish his out-pitch, he will be a Rookie of the Year candidate in 2013. With the Pirates rotation currently in flux, don’t be surprised if Cole is called upon by late May.

4. RHP Shelby Miller – St. Louis Cardinals

In 136.2 innings at triple-A last season, Miller averaged a K/9 of 10.54. That is astounding, but what makes it more tantalizing is the fact Miller got off to a horrid start last season. Pundits were declaring Miller finally met his match early on. Fans claimed he was overrated. Miller would end up rebuking every naysayer as the season wore on. He earned a shot with the big-league club in September and did not fail to impress either. With a solid fastball and an even more daunting changeup, Miller could crack the rotation to begin the year. With a crowded set of arms in St. Louis, it is plausible that Miller begins the year in the minors, too. However, he appears to have accomplished everything he could down there. Miller is now set to continue his dominance at the big-league level.

3. RHP Dylan Bundy – Baltimore Orioles

The most talked about prospect late last season, Bundy thrilled fans after zipping through single-A to the majors in a few short months. The fourth overall pick of the 2011 draft, Bundy brings to the table a gaudy four-pitch package that consists of a high-90s fastball, changeup, cutter and menacing curveball. Easily the best pitching prospect since Washington’s Stephen Strasburg, Bundy will begin his trek to the majors with a start in double-A in 2013. Although, it won’t be long until he dons the Orioles cap. We can expect to see Bundy back in the majors late 2013. Maintaining a high strikeout rate while also ensuring his command remains intact will be key. Either way, there hasn’t been this much anticipation for a pitcher in Baltimore since Mike Mussina in the early ’90s.

2. SS Jurickson Profar – Texas Rangers

In 2004, Profar dazzled the American audience with his performance in the Little League World Series while leading Curaçao to the title. Nine years later, Profar is considered the best shortstop prospect since Alex Rodriguez. With a solid swing, good speed on the base paths and a gratifying glove to match, Profar will be a critical piece to the Rangers organization as it moves forward as an annual contender in the AL. Profar was called up late last season, and many skeptics considered the small sample size disappointing. However, it’s foolish to jump to a conclusion based on 17 plate appearances. Between single and double-A the last two seasons, Profar hit 26 HR, drove in 127 RBI, scored 162 runs and tallied 39 stolen bases. Profar can’t be expected to hit better than .300, though. With Elvis Andrus standing in his way, Profar will begin the year in the minors.

1. OF Oscar Taveras – St. Louis Cardinals

Many consider Profar the top prospect in baseball. Disagreeing with that is asinine, but at the end of the day, Taveras continues to be overlooked to a certain degree. The fact that Taveras stems from the best developmental system in baseball — the St. Louis Cardinals — is what gives him a slight, and I mean slight, edge over Profar. There are endless comparisons between Taveras and Vladimir Guerrero. That in itself is saying something. Some have doubted Taveras’ true power since his double-A numbers came in a hitter-friendly ballpark. One thing that is not negligible is the fact Taveras has potential to hit .330 on annual basis. Combine that with his potential for power and plate discipline and the Cardinals will be set at right field for years to come. With a bloated roster chock full of talent, Taveras will not see the majors until late 2013.

2013 top 50 MLB prospects countdown: 20-11

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