1. Clint Frazier-OF-19
-The Indians selected Frazier 5th overall in the 2013 MLB draft and the early returns have been nothing short of spectacular. Frazier features incredible bat speed that may be second to Javier Baez in all of the minors. Frazier projects to show plus power from the right side and a hit tool that has a chance to be grade 6 or better if he can learn to control the strike zone better. Frazier has good, but not great, speed that should allow him to be an effective base stealer give his great instincts.
-Outlook: I love Frazier, he ranked second on my draft board last season, and I see a potential start in the making here. I’m comfortable now projecting Frazier to hit in the .280 range with 25-30 HR power and if he can learn to control the strike zone better I could see him as a perennial .300 hitter. I also see Frazier being able to chip in at least 15+ steals a year because of his off the charts baseball instincts.
2. Taijuan Walker-RHP-21
-Walker continued his march to stardom in 2013 and it culminated with a brief cameo in the big league rotation in September. Walker features a FB that sits in the low-mid 90s and tops out at 97 and the only thing keeping from being plus is command. Walker’s second best offering is a monster cutter that he throws in the 89-92 range and features great lateral movement in on lefties. Walkers other two offerings are a curveball and changeup that can show average to plus at times but lack consistency and aren’t reliable offerings at this point.
-Outlook: Walker has top of the rotation upside and a smooth, repeatable delivery that should lead to better command of all his offerings moving forward. With no improvement at all Walker could be a reliable back end starter and I feel like that’s what we’ll get it 2014. I see a future #2/3 starter long term whose lack of a quality third offering and iffy command hold him back from reaching his full ceiling.
ETA: Opening Day 2014
3. Albert Almora-OF-19
-Almora is a unique high level prospect as his game is more polish as opposed to tools and projection. Almora’s baseball instincts are off the charts and they help all of his tools to play up. He controls the strike zone well and has a great natural ability to square up pitches and make solid contact. Almora has the ability to hit .300 annually with enough power projection to make him a valuable fantasy performer. Almora as excels on the basepaths and his average speed plays up because of his ability to get good reads.
-Outlook: Almora will never be a star but he projects as a .300 hitter who shold be able to steal 20+ bases annually. Power development will ultimately determine what kind of fantasy value Almora provides and I feel safe in projecting him to settle in around the 20 mark annually which would make him a very solid second or third outfielder in FBLO.
4. Taylor Guerrieri-RHP-21
-Guerrieri was off to a promising start in his full season debut before being forced to undergo Tommy John surgery and then getting hit with a 50 game drug suspension. Guerrieri features a low 90s fastball with excellent movement and sink which he commands well. Guerrieri’s second offering is a plus curveball that is a plus pitch already that has the ability to miss bats. The third offering in his arsenal is a changeup that he has a tendency to overthrow and doesn’t look like it will be more than an average offering at best. It says a lot about Guerrieri that he’s coming off TJ surgery and injuries are far from the biggest concern with him but his character concerns do raise some serious red flags.
-Outlook: Guerrieri will miss most, if not all, of 2014 recovering from surgery and I hope that that time away from baseball will give him a chance to mature and come back in 2015 with a new perspective. The Rays develop pitchers as well as any team in the bigs and will show the necessary patience to allow Guerrieri to fulfill his potential. I see Guerrieri developing into a solid #2/3 starter who is a groundball machine and serves as a quality back end fantasy starter for a long time.
5. Bubba Starling-OF-21
-Starling’s 2013 started off terribly but he did show improvement in the seasons second half that can at least give fantasy owners some hope. All of the tools that made Startling a top-5 draft pick in 2011 are still there and several grade as at least plus. Starling has great speed and elite power but lack the bat-to-ball skills right now to get the most out of those tools. Contact skills and overall approach have been Starling’s issues and while we knew he was a work in progress at the time he was drafted his development has come slower than expected.
-Outlook: Starling’s tools give you upside to dream on and if he can develop into even just a .250 type hitter he could have a lot of fantasy value. I see Starling building on the success in the second half of last season and becoming a .250 or so hitter who hits 25 homers and steals 20+ bases a year. Patience is the key, and Starling may take a long time to get there, but I like his chances to put it all together and become a serviceable third outfielder type in FBLO.
6. Trey Ball-LHP-19
-A top-10 pick in the 2013 draft Ball was a two way standout in H.S. whose future is on the mound in pro ball. Ball has a low 90s fastball that has a chance to add velocity as he fills out and gets on a professional throwing program. He also has a chance to feature a plus changeup and curve but both are a long way off and all projection at this point. I like Ball a lot but 2014 will give us a better idea of what kind of a prospect he will become, but I like the skillset he brings.
7. Rafael Montero-RHP-23
-Montero has a fluid delivery and easy arm action that produces low 90s velocity with the fastball that plays up doe to some deception in the delivery. Montero also features a solid changeup and a slider that can flash average at times. I like Montero and have no problem predicting that he becomes a nice back end fantasy pitcher who has value as a depth option/spot starter.
8. Mike Foltynewitz-RHP-22
-Foltynewitz is all about power featuring one of the hardest fastballs in all of the minor leagues. When he’s not pumping FBs in the upper 90s Folty throws a couple different breaking balls that can show some hope but that’s about it at this point. Command issues and lack of a true breaking pitch leads me to believe Folty’s future is as a short reliever who pitches near the back end of games.
9. Rosell Herrera-SS-21
-Herrera was getting some love heading into the 2013 season and he did put up nice numbers as an older player in low-A. I don’t see a player capable of much fantasy relevance here as Herrera isn’t going to stick at short and doesn’t project to hit well enough to handle advanced pitching.
2013 Top Prospects:
1. Zach Wheeler-SP
2. Albert Almora-OF
3. Taylor Guerrieri-SP
4. Jed Gyorko-2B
5. Nick Franklin-2B
-The Cubs have kind of flown under the radar and managed to put together a pretty nice farm system. Considering the losses of Wheeler and Gyorko (two nice pieces for the future) to graduation, this system still features a nice mix of high upside guys and others who are safe bets to be impact players. Walker and Montero should make an impact in 2014 and Frazier should move quickly for a HS bat and be a big time impact player. I really like that the guys lower on the list like Guerrieri, Starling, Ball, and Foltyniwetz have the potential to be impact guys if everything comes together.