1. Archie Bradley-RHP-21
-Bradley’s 2013 went just about as well as one could have hoped as he took a huge developmental step forward with his command without sacrificing any of the raw stuff that has made him a potential #1 starter. Archie tore thru high class A and was exceptional in AA after a mid-season promotion. Bradley features a monster FB that sits in the mid 90s and can reach 99 when he reaches back for more. Bradley’s second big time weapon is a hammer curve that is plus-plus at times and should settle in as at least a plus offering. To make things even more unfair for hitters Bradley has seen his changeup develop into a serviceable offering that shows above average at times.
Outlook: Bradley still struggles with command and repeating his delivery at times but given his athletic frame and the strides he has already made I don’t feel like command will be a huge concern moving forward. I’m not sure there is a pitcher with a better two pitch mix than Bradley’s FB-CB combo in the minors right now and he absolutely looks the part of a #1 starter. If the changeup and command continue to develop you could have a dominant horse at the top of the rotation for years, think someone along the lines of Justin Verlander.
ETA: May 2014
2. Noah Syndergaard-RHP-21
-Syndergaard entered 2013 as a pitcher with a tremendous two pitch mix (FB and Changeup) who struggled with developing a breaking ball and had iffy command. My how things can change over the course of 12 months, Syndergaard’s command was markedly better in 2013 and his curveball took off and became a true weapon. Syndergaard’s fastball may be the best in the minors due to velocity (95+) and his ability to spot in wherever he wants. As if his FB wasn’t good enough it plays up when combined with his plus changeup and that combo can make even the best hitters look silly.
Outlook: I was tempted to put Syndergaard at the top of this list but went with Bradley because he has a little bit more of a track record of dominance but that’s no knock on Syndergaard. Mets fans and fantasy owners alike have to be drooling at the prospect of a rotation fronted by Matt Harvey, Zach Wheeler, and Syndergaard, maybe they should come up with a cool name for the trio like “Generation-K” or something, errr……wait. Anyhow, Syndergaard looks to me to be a solid #2 starter who is a must start in fantasy and should eat innings and K over 200 hitters annually for a long time.
ETA: August 2014
3. Sean Manaea-LHP-22
-Manaea was a legit candidate to go 1:1 in last June’s draft before inconsistency and injury concerns caused him to slip to the Royals with the 34th pick and they couldn’t have been happier to scoop him up. Lefties with velocity like Manaea don’t come along very often as he has a FB that sits in the mid 90s and has topped out at 98 and shows some arm side run. Manaea also flashes a plus-plus slider at times and though the pitch isn’t consistent right know it has a chance to be elite. The third offering in Manaea’s arsenal is a changeup that has a chance to be useable but will take time as he hasn’t had to use it much coming thru the amateur ranks. Manaea does carry some injury baggage and his velocity was inconsistent at times during his junior campaign.
-Outlook: Manaea comes with a lot of question marks but you just don’t find too many lefties with this kind of upside potential and I’m ranking him pretty aggressively here considering the injuries and inconsistencies but I feel like he has more of a chance to be elite than those below him on this list. If it all comes together you could have a Chris Sale type #1 starter here but at this point it is probably just as likely that he ends up at the back end of the bullpen.
ETA: Late 2015
4. Maikel Franco-3B/1B-21
-Franco’s 2013 was one of the more impressive performances with the bat in all of the minors as he tore up high A ball in the first half and then was even more impressive after a promotion to AA. Franco has tremendous bat speed and profiles to big time power that could end up as a grade 7 tool. Franco has a very aggressive approach and has struggled with quality off speed stuff thus far and he will have to make adjustments as he faces better pitchers or his power may not play up to its potential. Franco’s fantasy value would be negatively affected by a possible move to 1B but with the proper adjustments his bat should play just fine there as well.
-Outlook: I have gone back and forth on Franco quite a bit and while I do see the potential to be a real impact bat here I also carry some real concerns about his approach and swing and miss tendencies. I see Franco settling in as a .260 type hitter who hits 20-25 bombs a year but I fully acknowledge there is a possibility for a lot more in his bat.
ETA: June 2014
5. James Paxton-LHP-25
-Paxton’s 2013 was a bit of a rollercoaster that started off kind of slowly in AAA and didn’t look all that great until a four start dominant performance at the big league level in September. Paxton has a plus FB that sits in the mid 90s and plays up in short bursts which had lead some to think of him as a potential late inning reliever. Paxton throws a curveball that looks to be an average big league offering and he also throws a cutter that can also play as average. Paxton’s delivery comes and goes and his changeup is a below average offering at this time.
-Outlook: It’s hard not to get too excited about Paxton after the way he performed with the big league club last September but in reality that wasn’t the pitcher that we saw for most of 2013. I think Paxton can become a solid #3/4 type starter in the bigs who has some fantasy value because he racks up Ks and will have some dominant starts but also mix in some real stinkers when his delivery gets out of whack.
ETA: Opening Day
2013 Top Prospects:
1. Travis d’Arnaud-C
2. Archie Bradley-RHP
3. Carlos Martinez-RHP
4. James Paxton-LHP
5. Yasiel Puig-OF
The Brewers have historically made it a priority to load up on power arms with huge upside and 2014 is no different as they possess two of the minors top arms in Bradley and Syndergaard and maybe the minors biggest lottery ticket in Manaea. Franco has a chance to be an impact bat as well and while Paxton doesn’t profile as a star he should be a useable piece as a back end/spot starter. This system is a little shallow and everyone outside of the top two have their questions but they also have upside to be impact guys down the line which is exactly what you should look for in prospects.