I love baseball prospect lists. Who will be the stars of the future? What names will be filling the All-Star ballots in a few years? But the one problem I have with prospect lists, is they ignore the guys that fill out rosters. The future fifth starters, the fourth outfielders, the utility infielders. You know, who is gonna be the next Dave Roberts? Who is a future Aaron Harang? Is there a next Casey Blake? And it is great if Jurickson Profar is the stud shortstop of 2014, who is the shortstop that will make his debut this season that we haven’t heard of? I know Anthony Rendon, Will Middlebrooks, Bryce Harper, and Trevor Bauer, but who is going to be the next Brian Daubach? Well, that is what this is. I have chosen one under the radar prospect that I expect to make his major league debut this season. Some more under the radar than others, some have been on the top of prospect lists past, but fallen off the radar, and are now close to finally making an impact. So, without further ado, here are the guys.
Arizona Diamondbacks – A.J. Pollock – OF – Pollock missed a season due to injury in his three year pro career, so he is still in need of some seasoning, but he may make a mid-season jump up to Arizona as an emergency filler in the outfield. Last year he led his league in runs and hits, has a very successful steals rate in the minors, but doesn’t have great speed. He won’t light up any scoreboards, but could become a solid ball player and add serious depth down the stretch.
Atlanta Braves – J.J. Hoover – RHP – He is likely going to produce out of the bullpen by mid-season and be a spot starter. He has a live fastball with movement. His upside is a fourth starter, but will be able to make an impact for the Braves this season.
Baltimore Orioles – Ryan Flaherty – INF/OF – A former first round pick of the Cubs, Flaherty was selected in the Rule 5 draft by the Orioles. The fact he was a Rule 5 selection, and the Roberts injury, assures him a spot on the opening day roster as a middle infield depth. He can also play third and the outfield.
Boston Red Sox – Alex Wilson – RHP – He is far from the prized prospect in the Red Sox organization, but with the pitching struggles the Red Sox are sure to have, Alex Wilson will likely see some action in the bigs this season. He has a hard biting slider and a running fastball that can reach 98. He may is most likely a reliever, but does have an outside chance of catching on as the fifth starter by the end of the season.
Chicago Cubs – Josh Vitters – 3B/1B – A former third overall pick has largely disappointed over the past five years in the minors. He has watched Mike Moustakas, David Price, Jason Heyward, Matt Weiters, Madison Bumgarner, and the like from the 2007 draft have big league success, but he hasn’t advanced past AA. He has the potential to his 20 home runs each year with an average around .270. Third base is far from a solidified position for the Cubs, so expect Vitters to make his debut sometime in mid-July, or whenever the Cubs prove to be non-contenders this season.
Chicago White Sox – Josh Phegley – C – Pierzinsky isn’t getting any younger and Tyler Flowers hasn’t shown that he is the catcher of the future. Phegley hit well this spring while at big league camp. There isn’t much depth in the organization at catcher, so giving Phegley a look this season would serve the White Sox well.
Cincinnati Reds – Neftali Soto – 1B – Soto has real power, has spent time at short, third, and catcher before settling in at first base. He has improved his approach at the plate going from a dead pull hitter to a guy that can use all fields. He may get some time at third this season, and play first to give Joey Votto a day off. If he can’t prove he can play third, he will likely end up trade bait if the Reds find themselves in the playoff chase.
Cleveland Indians – Chen Lee – RHP – Lee has experience in the Olympics and the World Baseball Classic for his native Taiwan. He has been successful in every stop thus far in the minors. He projects as a premier set up man. By the end of the season, a Lee/Pestano/Perez end of game may be one of the better 7/8/9 inning combinations in the American League.
Colorado Rockies – Ben Paulson – 1B – Paulson has impressive raw power, but has struggled with contact. He made adjustments in the Arizona Fall League and performed quite well. If he continues to improve his strike zone recognition, he could find himself in Colorado come September.
Detroit Tigers – Drew Smyly – LHP – Smyly was impressive in his first professional season last year. He has four pitches and a ¾ delivery from the left side. His changeup makes him effective against both right and left handers. If he pitches well in AAA this season, he will likely find himself at the back of the rotation by the end of the season.
Houston Astros – Jonathon Villar – SS – Villar has been unimpressive with the bat in pro ball, but has a great glove and speed. He was a main part of the Oswalt deal a couple years ago, and could find himself with the Astros as a late inning defensive replacement or pinch runner. His upside is as a number 7 or 8 hitter, but could be a gold glove caliber fielder.
Kansas City Royals – Christian Colon – SS/2B – Colon will likely start the season in AA. He isn’t a good defensive shortstop, but does look good at second. He has raw power, but hasn’t been able to make it translate in pro ball. If he finally lives up to his potential with the bat, he could very well leap frog Giavotella and be the second baseman late in the season for a Royals team that is looking to surprise people this season.
Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim – Luis Jiminez – 3B – Jiminez got a decent look early this spring and performed pretty well. Third base is a clear weak spot for the Angels, as they will likely be going with Alberto Callaspo if Trumbo can’t field at third or raise his OBP. Kaleb Cowart is the third baseman of the future, but Jiminez may get a look this season to see if he can hold down the position until Cowart is ready.
Los Angeles Dodgers – Alfredo Silverio – OF – Silverio only got four at bats this spring, but is a likely late season call up for the Dodgers. He has average power, shows a good feel for the zone, a good glove, above average speed, and a quality arm. With Ethier a free agent after this season, look for Silverio to get some action with the Dodgers to see if he is a decent in-house option to replace Ethier.
Miami Marlins – Evan Reed – RHP – Originally a starting prospect for the Rangers, he blew out his shoulder in his first outing in the Marlins system. His recovery has been rough, but with time at the Arizona Fall League this year really helped him. He isn’t projected as a starter anymore, but could be a quality option in the bullpen by mid-season for the Marlins.
Milwaukee Brewers – Caleb Gindl – OF – Gindl got a real look during spring training this year, and performed pretty well. The big league outfield is pretty well set for the Brewers, and Aoki is the first option as a replacement for any injury to an outfielder. That being said, Gindl has proved himself at every level of the minors and is deserving of a look this season.
Minnesota Twins – Brian Dozier – SS/2B – Dozier doesn’t really project as an everyday starter at either short or second, but could be a very good utility infielder. He should get a call up sometime this season and create a role for himself much in the Nick Punto/Brandon Inge/Jamey Carroll mold. And what better way to do that than back up Carroll himself this season?
New York Mets – Zach Lutz – 1B/3B – Lutz struggles this spring in big league camp, but his lowest average at any level with over 200 at-bats is .284. He has as much power as anyone in the Mets organization. He has had a string of lower body injuries in his career, so his range at third is limited at best. He projects best as a first baseman, and if Ike Davis struggles with valley fever, Lutz could find himself as an everyday first baseman by September.
New York Yankees – David Phelps – RHP – Phelps will start the season in his third stint in AAA. He has three above average pitches and a slider that isn’t big league ready yet. He projects as a long man or fifth starter. With the pitching questions the Yankees have this year, Phelps is just an injury or two from getting the call.
Oakland A’s – Steve Parker – 3B/1B – It would be all too easy to pick one of the many pitching prospects the A’s have. But the guy furthest under the radar for the A’s is Steve Parker. His arm has improved enough to become a decent third baseman, and with the injuries at that position the A’s are dealing with, an opportunity may open up for Parker. The A’s will be bad this year, and if Donaldson or Sogard don’t step up and lock down the third base job, look for Parker to be given a shot.
Philadelphia Phillies – Phillipe Aumont – RHP – Aumont is a tall and long pitcher. He was the 11th overall selection in 2007 with as high an upside as anyone in the draft. He has not progressed as a starter, but has a plus fastball and a nasty curve making him an incredibly effective reliever. Aumont may break camp on the big league roster, and if he does, he could be the 8th inning guy bridging to Papelbon by the end of the season.
Pittsburgh Pirates – Gorkys Hernandez – OF – Hernandez has already been traded twice in his career, and this season may be a third time. He is a centerfielder that could prove to be an everyday guy, but is blocked by Andrew McCutchen and Starling Marte nipping at his heals. Look for the Pirates to give him a shot in June and July, then trade him to a contending team in need of outfield depth…say…the Rangers.
San Diego Padres – Yasmani Grandal – C – Grandal is a serviceable defender, but above average offensively. He doesn’t have big home run power, but does have gap power. Add that to the fact he is a switch hitter, and he could really thrive in a park like Petco. While Hundley is a solid starter at catcher for the Padres, Grandal could earn himself a shot as the second catcher by late season, and potentially battle Hundley for the job by next spring.
San Francisco Giants – Francisco Peguero – OF – Peguero has an above average arm and has become a great defender. His has developing power, and needs to improve his approach at the plate. His defense fits AT&T Park perfectly as a right fielder. He can also play some center, and while it is unlikely, he does have an outside shot of making the opening day roster. Peguero and Gary Brown are the clear future for the Giants outfield.
Seattle Mariners – Erasmo Ramirez –RHP – The Mariners are loaded with pitcher prospects. Felix, Taijuan Walker, Danny Hultzen, and Hector Noesi line up to be the top four for years to come. Ramirez is likely to be the fifth man in the rotation. He gets hit hard when he leaves his fastball up in the zone, which he does too often, and he doesn’t look like the typical pitcher, standing just 5’11”, but he has proved he can handle a heavy inning load. He should make his debut this season and prove to be a valuable innings eater for years to come.
St. Louis Cardinals – Zack Cox – 3B – David Freese lit the world on fire in last year’s postseason, but I question whether or not he is the long term answer there. Cox does not have huge power numbers, but does look to be a potential .300 hitter with 20 home run power. Look for him to get a September call up to allow the Cards to assess his value to the big league club.
Tampa Bay Rays – Tim Beckham – SS – Maybe this is just being hopeful. Beckham was a former #1 overall pick in 2008, he has struggled in professional ball. He finally made the Futures game last year and looked like he belonged. Hak-Ju Lee is the shortstop of the future, and Beckham is starting to look like he may fit better on a corner of the field than the middle. He may become a utility guy similar to Sean Rodriguez.
Texas Rangers – Tanner Scheppers – RHP – Scheppers has battled injury and control issues through his career. Once a starting prospect, he is now destined to land in the bullpen. Upside of a closer with a fastball that can touch triple digits, but ed to land in the bullpen. Upside of a closer with a fastball that can touch triple digits, but it is a very flat fastball that can be seen easily. The Rangers have a solid pen, but Scheppers should get some run at some point this year whether it be due to big league injuries or to eat relief innings in September remains to be seen.
Toronto Blue Jays – Adeiny Hechavarria – SS – A former member of the Cuban national team, Hechavarria is a plus defender and could be a real base stealing threat. He has gap power, but walks too little and strikes out too much. If Kelly Johnson struggles this year, Hechavarria could get some run at short with the Blue Jays moving Escobar to second.
Washington Nationals – Tyler Moore – 1B – The Nationals drafted Moore three times before finally convincing him to sign. He hit 31 home runs each of the last two years in the minors. He may have to play some in the outfield at AAA to get playing time, but should get some time at first in the bigs by the end of the season. Look for the Nationals to give him a look and see if he is worthy of being a starting first baseman for a team that should compete for years to come.