Welcome to the All-Star break gang – the unofficial beginning of the second half signals the time to reorganize, revamp, and re-think approaches for us, as well as the folks making the calls for your favorite MLB teams. And, coincidentally, it also marks the time for me to revisit my Prospect Rankings. These are the current top-50 guys on my board that haven’t accumulated the standard minimum 130 AB/50 IP at the MLB level that most fantasy leagues recognize. When compiling my rankings, I try to consider as many variables as possible, but my main focus tilts toward future “difference-makers”… those guys that have the potential to make significant impacts when they reach “The Show”. Some players you’ll find on this list may be further away from making that impact than others, some may be struggling a bit right now (they may have been recently promoted to the next level to challenge them and are adjusting to stiffer competition), some may be on the shelf because of injury, etc., but this list represents the top-50 players I’d pick if you give me the first 50 picks in the MiLB phase of a draft in a newly forming fantasy league. These are the prospects GMs “dream on”, regardless of their current minor league level – the players they plan to build their rosters around at some point in the near future.
So here we go…
Razzball’s 2014 Midseason Top 50 MiLB Prospects
1.) Kris Bryant, 3B/RF, CHC
The Cubs’ 2013 1st Round pick (#2 overall) is ready to make an impact as a middle of the order bat now. The only question is whether it will be as an infielder or outfielder. His .346/.444/.701/1.146 first half slash line combined with 26 2Bs, 31 bombs, and 81 RBIs should place him squarely on top of everyone’s “must have” list. Theo and Jed may continue to be stubborn and keep him in Iowa during the second half, but we should see a combination of Bryant/Rizzo or Rizzo/Bryant in the middle of the Cubs’ lineup on Opening Day 2015.
2.) Byron Buxton, CF, MIN
The Twins are taking it slow with the 2012 BA High School Player Of The Year and 2013 BA MiLB Player Of The Year – he only had a handful of ABs before re-injuring his wrist early on this season – but there’s no doubt he’s the Twins’ long-term answer in CF, and his ETA likely only depends on how long it takes him to get comfortable again. Buxton was putting up comparable numbers to Mike Trout at similar levels before getting hurt, and while he may not eventually turn out to be Trout (a pretty unfair comp for just about anyone), he’ll make the same type of impact as young OFs like George Springer and Gregory Polanco once he calls Target Field home.
3.) Dylan Bundy, RHSP, BAL
If the Orioles stick to the plan of limiting Bundy to a maximum of 75 pitches per start for the remainder of the year he’s not likely to make an impact during the second half, but make no mistake – he is the guy that will front their rotation once the gloves come off. Bundy fits the typical “Ace” profile with a fastball that sits in the mid-90s (and touches 98) mixed with a wipeout curveball and a change that was consistently plus before he had Tommy John Surgery. Dylan had a bit of a hiccup in his July 4th outing, but a couple of those are to be expected during his recovery. He’s coming O’s fans, and he’s coming fast.
4.) Carlos Correa, SS, HOU
Correa was the Astros’ #1 prospect according to BA coming into this season, and he’s done nothing to change that projection. The impressive 19 year old’s ETA may be slightly delayed thanks to the broken fibula he suffered sliding into 3B on a triple in late June, but at the time of his injury the 2012 #1 overall pick was slashing .325/.416/.510/.926 with 16 2Bs, 6 3Bs, 6 HRs, and 20 SBs in 24 attempts. Hopefully the Houston brass sees fit to lock up Jose Altuve for longer than his current contract lasts (2019 if both option years are picked up) because that pairing could provide Astros fans with one of the most dynamic middle infield combinations in the game for years and years.
5.) Joey Gallo, 3B, TEX
The Rangers’ preseason #5 prospect earned a promotion to AA Frisco following his absolute demolition of Carolina League pitching (.323/.463/.735/1.199 with 9 2Bs, 3 3Bs, 21 HRs, and 50 RBIs in 189 ABs), and has continued pounding the ball with 7 2Bs, 10 HRs, and 23 RBIs without a huge dropoff at the higher level (.371 OBP). Strikeouts remain a concern as they are with all power hitters (49 Ks in 101 AA ABs), but if Gallo’s able to maintain the majority of his power as his pitch recognition improves, he could realistically provide GM Jon Daniels the opportunity to decline Adrian Beltre’s 2016 option and allocate that money elsewhere (paying a chunk of what’s still owed Prince Fielder would be a start).
6.) Lucas Giolito, RHSP, WAS
The big right-hander with Hollywood bloodlines (his Grandfather was Mr. Ross in Seinfeld, and his Mom had parts in Lost and Frasier) continues mowing down opposing hitters. Armed with an 80 grade fastball that sits in the mid-90s (touching 100) and a power curveball, Giolito has held SALLY League hitters to a .196 BAA with a 3-1 K/BB Ratio (72 Ks in 65.2 IP). If the Nationals and Jordan Zimmerman can’t find common ground for a contract extension, Giolito could be ready to step into the Washington rotation in his place to start the 2016 season (or possibly before).
7.) Francisco Lindor, SS, CLE
The Indians still hold out hope that the Puerto Rico native’s bat will continue developing at a quicker pace during the second half of the season since his glove has been deemed MLB ready for some time. Asdrubal Cabrera’s heir-apparent (this is the last year of Asdrubal’s contract) is slashing .284/.361/.400/.761 with 21 XBH and 24 SBs at AA Akron. If he shows Chris Antonetti & Company enough the rest of the way, he could be given the chance to start 2015 in Cleveland’s Opening Day lineup.
8.) Joc Pederson, OF, LAD
Pederson is one of those players that’s going to make a serious impact at the next level that just needs to be on a team where he can be called up. Joc can play all 3 OF spots defensively, and is one of those select few who can be called a legitimate plus defensive CF with plus power. A first half slash of .324/.445/.572/1.017 with 17 HRs and 20 SBs have to have Ned Colletti and his advisors thinking hard about eating a chunk of money to help move Andre Ethier or Carl Crawford regardless of the return.
9.) Oscar Taveras, OF, STL
While he’s struggled in his limited taste of the majors Taveras will hit once he gets everyday ABs, whether he’s eventually in St. Louis or elsewhere. His .318/.370/.502/.872 slash line at AAA Memphis is right in line with his career numbers and is a much better reflection of the hitter he’s going to be when given consistent ABs at the next level.
10.) Addison Russell, SS, CHC
Where Russell ultimately plays on defense (assuming he remains in Chicago) remains a question with Starlin Castro and Javier Baez as other SS options, but Theo and Jed will definitely find him somewhere to play (and it may be soon). Addison was slashing .333/.439/.500/.939 in limited Texas League action following a late start to his season before the Cubs got him as the focal point of the Jeff Samardzija trade with the A’s. Russell (like many of the Cubs’ impressive stable of position player prospects) is a premium athlete who finished last season with 17 HRs to go along with 21 SBs that just needs a bit of exposure to advanced pitching. He finished the first half trending upward, going 6/18 in his last 5 games before the break.
11.) Miguel Sano, 3B, MIN
Sano is spending the 2014 season on the shelf recovering from Tommy John Surgery, but he remains one of the true elite power prospects in the game. He reached AA last year as a 20 year old, slashing .280/.382/.610/.992 with 30 2Bs, 5 3Bs, 35 HRs, and 100 RBIs in only 439 ABs (and even stole 11 bases). His ETA will be slightly later than Byron Buxton’s since he won’t get any work at all this summer, but the pair promises to terrorize AL Central opponents for a long time once they get to Target Field.
12.) Jonathon Gray, RHSP, COL
The 2013 #4 overall pick out of Oklahoma works with a 94-97 MPH fastball (that touches 100 when he reaches back) with heavy life, a wipeout slider, and is mainly working on his changeup (that flashes plus at times). His first half wasn’t overly impressive – 3.77 ERA, and a 1.19 WHIP at AA Tulsa – but his .244 BAA, 81/26 K/BB Ratio, and only 79 hits allowed in 88.1 IP are a reflection that his control and command are improving. Expect to see Gray when rosters expand (if not before) with an eye towards having him join Eddie Butler as 2015 Rockies’ rotation additions.
13.) Blake Swihart, C, BOS
Swihart hit his 10th HR just before the break, finishing his first half in Portland (AA) with a .296/.351/.485/.836 slash line and a solid 25/51 BB/K Ratio. The switch-hitter has a solid approach at the plate and sprays line drives all over the yard – something that will really help his 19 2Bs and 3 3Bs play up when hitting in Fenway Park. His defense has improved across the board, and he now projects as at least an average defensive backstop. While the Red Sox won’t be overly aggressive with him (preferring to allow him to continue improving his game-calling and staff management skills), he could be an option for the big club early next season if he’s needed.
14.) Archie Bradley, RHSP, ARI
The Diamondbacks’ 2011 First Round pick (#7 overall) was cruising along, and looked like a 2014 rotation candidate until struggles with fastball location popped up late last season and in spring training. Archie was sent to Reno to get things ironed out at the beginning of this season, but the struggles continued (4.4 BB/9, 9.6 Hits/9, 5.18 ERA, and 1.56 WHIP), and he’s recently been demoted to AA where he’s walked 13 hitters in only 18.1 IP. Bradley’s agent expressed Archie’s frustration over not being slotted into Arizona’s rotation during their awful start to the season, but he simply hasn’t pitched well enough to earn a promotion. He has front of the rotation stuff when he’s on, and just needs to quit sulking and start locating.
15.) Javier Baez, SS, CHC
Baez represents the second member of the Cubs’ high-end hitting prospects who will likely eventually be moved to another position. Starlin Castro is signed to a very reasonable deal through 2019 (with a 2020 option), and will likely remain the big club’s SS unless he’s dealt. Baez possesses more pop, so a shift to 3B or the OF is certainly feasible. Despite his big HR in the Futures Game he’s struggled to make adjustments against advanced pitching, finishing his first half at AAA Iowa with a .240/.305/.449/.753 slash line to go along with 19 2Bs, 2 3Bs, 14 HRs, and 15 SBs. He’s going to have to show more patience and cut down on chasing breaking balls (28/110 BB/K Ratio) before being considered for the big league roster, but mainains a high upside with the potential to be a fixture in Wrigley Field for a long time once he matures a bit.
16.) Corey Seager, SS, LAD
The Dodgers announced that they were promoting 2012 First Round pick Seager to AA Chatanooga over the weekend while he was in Minneapolis for the Futures Game. The 20 year old punished California League pitching during the first half, slashing .352/.411/.633/1.044 with 34 2Bs, 2 3Bs, 18 HRs, and 70 RBIs in 80 games (327 ABs). One of the few questions about Corey is whether he sticks at SS long-term, but he’s been at least acceptable there defensively thus far. The Dodgers have time on their side with Seager and don’t need to rush him, but he’s likely to continue moving quickly if he can continue improving his plate discipline (30/76 BB/K Ratio during the first half at Rancho Cucamonga).
17.) Jameson Taillon, RHSP, PIT
The former #2 overall pick in the 2010 Draft is spending this season resting and rehabbing following Tommy John Surgery (April), but remains on track to become a fixture in the Pirates’ rotation during the second half of 2015. Taillon fits the prototpical Texas fireballer to a “T” – his heavy fastball sits between 93-97 MPH and touches 99, and he has a hammer curveball, and the majority of his development time has been spent working on a slider and change. Jameson was 3.6 years younger than the average age of players in the Eastern League last season before earning a promotion to AAA Indianapolis during the second half and will only be 23 when he returns in early 2015.
18.) Julio Urias, LHSP, LAD
There hadn’t been a real significant buzz surrounding Urias (although I mentioned him as the player to watch) prior to Sunday evening’s Futures Game. The youngest player ever invited to participate at 17 threw 11 of his 14 pitches for strikes in an impressive fifth inning, touched 95 with his fastball, and gained praise from fellow competitor Michael Taylor who said Urias was the best of the 4 Pitchers he faced during the game. According to all reports Julio is amazingly composed, and understands the Dodgers want to be careful with him. There’s no need to rush him given their pitching depth at higher levels, but Urias just oozes “special”.
19.) Austin Hedges, C, SDP
Hedges is widely considered the best defensive catching prospect in the minor leagues, with scouts rating both his receiving skill and arm as high as 70-grade tools. Some even have his arm as an 80, and he was producing 1.78 second pop times when he was signed away from his UCLA commitment for $3,000,000 after the Padres selected him in the Second Round of the 2011 Draft. Austin projects as an everyday Catcher with All-Star potential if he can just become an average hitter when he’s at the plate. He still needs development time in that area – his .243/.288/.363/.651 slash line at AA San Antonio bears that out – but if he hits at all he’s going to be a lot of fun to watch. His calling card will always be his defense, and he’s thrown out 39% of opposing basestealers so far in 2014.
20.) Henry Owens, LHSP, BOS
The Red Sox’ 2011 Supplemental 1st Round pick (#36 overall) doesn’t overpower hitters (his fastball typically sits between 88-92), but he just keeps getting swings and misses whenever he’s on the mound. He’s added 25 pounds since being drafted and has been clocked as high as 95 MPH but it’s his advanced feel for pitching that sets him apart, and when his curveball is effective he can be dominant. His impressive first half at AAA Portland – 12-3, 2.21 ERA, 1.03 WHIP, and 111/40 K/BB Ratio in 105.2 IP (69 hits allowed with a .183 BAA) – shows that he has little left to prove before he’s given a rotation spot. Assuming the big club further commits to its youth movement, Henry likely gets several starts during the second half of this season.
21.) Daniel Norris, LHSP, TOR
If the Blue Jays remain relevant during the second half, they’ll likely let the 2011 2nd Round pick finish out his 2014 campaign at AA New Hampshire (he’s been victimized by three bombs in his first four starts there). Before his promotion from Dunedin he was all but unhittable – 6-0, 1.22 ERA, 1.03 WHIP, 76/18 K/BB Ratio, and a .209 BAA in 66.1 IP. He’s still held opposing hitters to a .210 BAA in his first 4 starts following the promotion, and could conceivably prove ready to join Marcus Stroman in the Totonto rotation in early 2015.
22.) Hunter Harvey, RHSP, BAL
There are already at least 12-15 teams that regret passing on Hunter and allowing him to slip all the way to the Orioles at #22 overall in the 2013 Draft. Much like Madison Bumgarner, some teams dinged him for the perceived lack of high-end competition he faced as a high schooler in western North Carolina. Oops!!! Harvey’s fastball has ticked up slightly since he debuted, sitting 93-95 MPH (touching 97), his curveball is already plus at times, and his changeup is coming along quickly. If not for one hiccup against Texas’ impressive Hickory Crawdads lineup (2 IP, 6 ER), his 3.01 ERA, 1.13 WHIP, .202 BAA, and 93/32 K/BB Ratio in 77 IP would look even more impressive. Hunter won’t turn 20 until just before Christmas, but he’s striking out 10.8 hitters per 9 IP, and may already be ready to be pushed to the next level.
23.) Noah Syndergaard, RHSP, NYM
Syndergaard has struggled a bit in the hitter haven that is the PCL, but most Pitchers do. His peripherals remain strong – 3.75 K/BB, 82 Ks in 79.2 IP – and he’s ready to join Matt Harvey when he returns to front the Mets’ rotation at the start of next season. If the Mets are able to find a decent return for Bartolo Colon prior to the deadline, look for Noah to get a taste of the bigs later this season.
24.) Raul A. Mondesi, SS, KCR
Mondesi hasn’t yet impressed with his bat, but that likely stems as much from being the second youngest player in the SALLY League last year and 5 full years younger than the average prospect in the Carolina League this season. A switch-hitter and 60 runner, he possesses an above-average arm with above-average range and eventually projects as an above-average hitter with at least average power for a SS. He should be ready in plenty of time to replace Alcides Escobar before his deal runs out (signed through next year with 2016 and 2017 options) if he’s not traded for pitching before then.
25.) Kohl Stewart, RHSP, MIN
While his K numbers haven’t jumped out at anyone (55 in 76.2 IP at Lo-A Cedar Rapids), Stewart’s yet another youngster cut out of the Ryan/Clemens/Beckett Texas Fireballer mold with a fastball that sits 92-94 (touching 96) and a wipeout mid-80s slider. One of the things that scouts point to about Stewart is his ability to limit solid contact – he’s only allowed 3 HRs so far in 2014, and didn’t allow any in 20 IP after he signed as the Twins’ 1st Round pick of the 2013 Draft (4th overall).
26.) Carlos Rodon, LHSP, CHW
The White Sox recently announced they’ve agreed to the highest bonus given to a player selected in this year’s draft when they signed the big lefty for $6,582,000. The consensus #1 pick prior to the season slipped to Chicago following an uneven start to his season at NC State, but slight adjustments to his delivery returned his fastball to the mid-90s, and his wipeout slider was widely considered the best pitch in the draft. Carlos shouldn’t need much development time if all goes as expected, and he could team with Chris Sale to provide the White Sox with a dynamic duo of LHPs at the front of their rotation starting next spring.
27.) Jesse Winker, OF, CIN
Winker earned a promotion to AA Pensacola just before the break, but it was well deserved – he slashed .317/.426/.580/1.006 with 15 2Bs and 13 HRs in only 205 California League ABs to begin his 2014 campaign. He’s not particularly athletic, and his limited range and arm strength will likely keep him in LF long-term, but he uses the whole field, exhibits a solid approach, and should develop into a plus hitter with plus power.
28.) Josh Bell, OF, PIT
Bell’s career started a little slowly after the Pirates were surprisingly able to sign him away from Texas after giving him a $5,000,000 bonus when they selected him in the 2nd Round of the 2011 Draft (his Mom’s a college professor), but he’s coming on quickly after shaking off injuries. The Pirates already own arguably the most dynamic young OF in the game at the MLB level, but Bell and fellow prospect Austin Meadows should provide GM Neal Huntington two very valuable trade pieces if the organization chooses to move them in an effort to improve the big club somewhere else.
29.) Tyler Glasnow, RHSP, PIT
Glasnow appears to be well on his way to becoming possibly the most impressive draft pick of the Huntington era. A relative unknown as a Hart High (Santa Clarita, CA) Senior, the Pirates signed him for $600,000 after they drafted him in the 5th Round of the 2011 Draft. Glasnow has a mid-90s fastball that can touch as high as 99 to pair with a solid curveball and improving changeup. He led the SALLY League in Ks (164 in 111.1 IP) last season in his first taste of full-season ball, and has limited Florida State League hitters to a .180 BAA while still averaging better than 1 K/IP.
30.) Jimmy Nelson, RHSP, MIL
Nelson doesn’t really have anything else to prove in the minors, and he’s likely going to be given several more starts with the big club to get comfortable even though he struggled in his appearance before the break. It’s conceivable that he could be sent back down if Milwaukee remains in the race and he’s having a tough time, but his spot in the 2015 Brewers’ rotation seems all but certain.
31.) Kyle Zimmer, RHSP, KCR
The #5 overall pick in the 2012 Draft by the Royals was shut down in late May after straining his Latissimus Dorsi (shoulder muscle) in his first outing facing live hitters. Originally projected as a late season call-up to help bolster the rotation this season, it now appears that he’ll be limited to around 40 IP in instructional league ball and the Arizona Fall League once he resumes throwing this month. Zimmer’s upside remains high if he proves healthy, but it doesn’t look like he’ll be a legitimate full-time option for the KC rotation until 2016.
32.) Jose Berrios, RHSP, MIN
The #32 overall pick in the 2012 Draft was dominant for Fort Myers (Hi-A) – 1.96 ERA, 1.05 WHIP, .218 BAA, 109/23 K/BB Ratio over 96.1 IP (78 hits allowed) – prior to earning a promotion to AA New Britain last week. Jose profiles as a potential #2 SP if he continues to improve his control with a low 90s fastball that can touch 95, an improving slider, and a good changeup that has late fade. He won’t be rushed, but could force his way into the Twins’ rotation late next season if he continues to impress.
33.) J. P. Crawford, SS, PHI
Crawford won the GCL batting title last season after the Phillies scooped him up at #16 overall in the 2013 Draft and the organization continues to be aggressive with him, already pushing him to Hi-A Clearwater following his .295/.398/.405/.804, 16 2B, 3 HR showing in 227 SALLY League ABs. He displayed a keen eye at the plate while he was with Lakewood, drawing 37 BBs while only striking out 37 times. A premium athlete (Uncle Carl’s still with the Dodgers for now), he displays soft hands and a plus arm and good instincts defensively. If his bat continues to develop and the organization continues to be aggressive with him, Crawford could supplant Roman Quinn as the eventual replacement for Jimmy Rollins. It might be a bit of a stretch to expect him to be ready before Rollins’ contract is up (if the Phillies exercise his 2015 option and he’s still there), but it’s not out of the question.
34.) Luis Severino, RHSP, NYY
The 20 year old’s early season success in Charleston – 2.79 ERA, 1.14 WHIP, .242 BAA, 70/15 K/BB Ratio in 67.2 IP – earned him a quick promotion to Tampa, where he’s been even better in his first four starts. It’s tough to get overly excited about young Yankees’ Pitchers considering the fact that it’s been a long time since they’ve developed a good starter, but he’s doing a good job keeping the ball down (1.70 GO/AO Ratio this season). If they can keep him from falling in love with the radar gun (he’s touched the upper-90s while typically working at 93-95 MPH) and his offspeed stuff keeps improving, he projects as a #3 starter if not better.
35.) David Dahl, OF, COL
The #10 overall pick in the 2012 Draft was named the MVP of the Rookie Pioneer League (hitting a league-leading .379 and building a 27 game hitting streak) and he continues to flash his plus tools at Lo-A Asheville, finishing the first half slashing .299/.348/.495/.832 with 29 2Bs, 6 3Bs, and 10 HRs while being successful on 17 of his 21 SB attempts. The Rockies have a stable full of talented young OFs, but five tooler Dahl could eventually prove to be the best of the bunch.
36.) Alex Meyer, RHSP, MIN
Much like Jimmy Nelson, Meyer has proven about everything he needs to in the minors and is just kind of treading water while waiting for his call-up. That should come soon, and with only 89.1 IP so far, he could finish out the season with the big club to get him adjusted and have his innings at a level high enough to expect to give him a full workload in 2015.
37.) Arismendy Alcantara, 2B, CHC
It’s pretty tough to ask someone to do much more than Alcantara has in his first taste of MLB competition – a first week where he went 9-23 with 3 2Bs, 1 3B, 1 HR, 5 RBIs, 6 runs scored, and a stolen base against a handful of solid SPs that play for contenders speaks for itself. He SHOULD remain in the lineup the rest of the way unless Theo and Jed are interested in improving the team’s draft position in an attempt to get one more Top 5 pick before the minors to Wrigley shuttle begins in earnest.
38.) Dalton Pompey, OF, TOR
Pompey’s development has been a bit slow, but once you realize he wasn’t picked by the Blue Jays until the 16th Round of the 2010 Draft, you’ll see him for the virtual steal he’s on his way to becoming. The switch-hitter could join fellow 2010 16th Round alumnus Cody Allen in the majors sooner rather than later. Dalton slashed .319/.397/.471/.868 with 12 2Bs, 6 3Bs, and 6 HRs with 29 SBs in 276 ABs with Dunedin (Hi-A) prior to earning a promotion to New Britain and an invitation to participate in this year’s Futures Game.
39.) Jose Peraza, 2B, ATL
While the 20 year old Peraza was setting the Carolina League on fire with Lynchburg (Hi-A) prior to his AA promotion, he’s been even more impressive since his arrival in Mississippi – slashing .374/.400/.484/.884 with 5 2Bs, 1 3B, 1 HR, and 8 SBs in his first 20 games (91 ABs). A really slick fielder with a good eye, Peraza projects as a prototypical leadoff hitter, and if he and Tommy La Stella keep their respective levels of play up there should be one heck of a battle waged for the Braves’ 2B job during camp when it opens at Dark Star (Disney) next February.
40.) Robert Stephenson, RHSP, CIN
The 27th overall pick in the 2011 Draft has struggled with his location and command during the first half of 2014 as a 21 year old with AA Pensacola – 3.97 ERA, 1.31 WHIP, with 48 BBs and 10 HRs allowed in 93 IP – but the Ks are still there (93), and he remains tough to hit when he locates (.216 BAA with only 74 hits allowed). While Robert appears to have taken a bit of a step back, he still projects as another front of the rotation arm from one of the more impressive classes of high school 1st Rounders in recent memory (his class included Jose Fernandez, Dylan Bundy, and Archie Bradley). The Reds have no need to rush Stephenson, but a strong second half could put him in the discussion to join the Reds’ rotation next season if they can’t come to terms on an extension with Matt Latos.
41.) Kyle Schwarber, C, CHC
The #4 overall pick in the 2014 Draft has already been promoted to Hi-A Kane County, and could have another promotion in his future following his .361/.448/.602/1.050, 8 2B, 4 HR, 11/17 BB/K Ratio showing in 83 ABs there. The Cubs expected him to move relatively quickly, but even the most aggressive prospect-hounds weren’t likely considering him as a legitimate candidate to be behind the plate in Wrigley in mid-2015. If he keeps this up, that may very well turn out to be the case.
42.) Tyler Kolek, RHSP, MIA
The Marlins surprised some pundits when they selected Kolek instead of Carlos Rodon at #2 overall last month citing Rodon’s likely quicker development curve, but Jose Fernandez’ injury may have contributed to the decision (at least somewhat). Assuming Fernandez fully recovers from Tommy John Surgery, Kolek could be paired with him to form the most impressive young front of a rotations in the game as early as late 2015. Tyler is the hardest thrower most scouts can remember during the draft era (consistently touching 102 MPH), and he’s flashed a power slider at times to go along with a decent curveball and a changeup he hasn’t had to throw very often. The Marlins’ organization has had consistent recent success in developing young Pitchers, and Kolek could become as good as any of them if he can throw consistent strikes with his secondary offerings.
43.) Kevin Plawecki, C, NYM
Plawecki’s impressive early start at AA Binghamton – .326/.378/.487/.864 with 18 2Bs and 6 HRs in 224 ABs – earned him a promotion to Las Vegas prior to the break to go along with an Futures Game invite. He’s a solid hitter who sprays line drives from pole to pole and can turn on a pitch when the opportunity presents itself. He projects as average defensively behind the plate, but could profile as a perfect platoon partner for Lucas Duda at 1B who should be capable of spelling Travis d’Arnaud whenever needed to keep him healthy as early as next spring.
44.) Jorge Soler, OF, CHC &
Soler’s been nicked up for most of the first half but has been arguably as impressive as any hitter in the minors when he’s been on the field. In 15 games since he was added to the Tennesee (AA) roster, he’s slashed .400/.456/.880/1.336 in 50 ABs, smacking 9 2Bs and 5 HRs. Can he continue at this pace? Of course not, but if he keeps impressing during the second half he could force his way into the conversation as an OF option in early 2015 (if not on Opening Day).
45.) Jorge Alfaro, C, TEX
Alfaro is one of the most intriguing Catcher prospects in the game with a bit of an odd skill set – a premium athlete with a small frame and well above-average speed for a backstop, he could shift to RF in the event his footwork behind the plate and ability to block balls doesn’t continue to improve. If he can remain behind the plate he has the plus arm to shut down a running game combined with the ability to be a well above-average offensive producer. His pitch recognition still needs work (.258 BA and a .318 OBP with 87 Ks during the first half at Hi-A Myrtle Beach), but he barrels balls up regularly and compiled 31 XBH prior to the break (17 2Bs, 3 3Bs, and 10 HRs) while driving in 59 runs. Another Futures Game participant, Jorge will be given every opportunity to remain behind the dish long-term, but he has enough bat to reach The Show even if he has to change positions.
46.) Hunter Dozier, 3B, KCR
Somewhat panned as an “easy sign” when Kansas City made him the #8 overall pick in the 2013 Draft, Dozier has rewarded the Royals’ confidence in him by continuing to hit as he’s advanced up the ladder. His OBP has not unexpectedly suffered a bit following his first half promotion to AA Northwest Arkansas as he’s seeing more advanced pitching, but he appears to be adjusting of late – slashing .273/.351/.606/.957 with 2 2Bs and 3 HRs in his last 10 games prior to the break. Hunter has an above-average arm and good range defensively and could provide the organization an alternative to Mike Moustakas as early as late 2015 if Moustakas continues to struggle at the plate.
47.) Albert Almora, OF, CHC
Almora is the seventh (and final!!!) Cubs yougster to make this list. After struggling mightily early in the season with Hi-A Daytona, he’s caught fire lately, slashing .395/.422/.721/1.143 over his last 10 games with 3 2Bs, 1 3B, and 3 HRs among his 17 hits. He’s still striking out too often to be rushed, but the 2012 #2 overall pick remains a big part of Chicago’s projected lineup as early as late 2015 if he can improve his pitch recognition and patience. Albert’s still only 20, and became the third player in Daytona Cubs’ history to hit for the cycle when he went 5-7 (2 1Bs) with 5 RBIs and 4 runs scored in a 13-8 win over Jupiter Monday night.
48.) Jeff Hoffman, RHSP, TOR
Hoffman will miss the vast majority of the 2015 season while he recovers from Tommy John Surgery, but was in the conversation to go among the top 3-4 picks in this year’s draft prior to going down. Toronto was more than happy to give him a #3,080,800 bonus to sign and rehab in their system when they grabbed him with the #9 overall pick last month. Hoffman has the stuff to front a rotation, pitching off a fastball that comfortably sat in the mid-90s (touching 98), a heavy two-seamer with sink and armside run, and a changeup and curve that have both flashed above-average at times. He maintains his velocity deep into games, and could move quickly if he returns to full health late next season.
49.) Clint Frazier, OF, CLE
I mentioned Frazier as someone who appears to be becoming more comfortable lately prior to his appearance in Sunday’s Futures Game, and he remains someone to keep an eye on as the second half opens. The organization will continue to allow him to keep refining his approach and progressing at his own pace, but he could become an option to begin 2016 in the Indians’ lineup with continued improvement.
50.) Austin Meadows, OF, PIT
Meadows was selected 4 picks lower than fellow Georgia high school OF Clint Frazier in the 2013 Draft (#9 overall), and has seen his 2014 campaign wrecked by a hamstring injury during spring training followed by a setback while rehabbing. Austin may eventually have to move to LF (he has an average arm at best according to most scouts), but was lauded for his advanced approach at the plate prior to being drafted, and he has the leverage to develop power although he’ll need to work on loft to deliver it consistently as he progresses.