Yordano Ventura has already become a must-start pitcher. (Mundideportes.com)
The 2014 RotoRob MLB Draft Kit continues today as we continue our countdown of the Top 65 Prospects. So while Jose Fernandez mulls Tommy John surgery, let’s peruse prospects 30 through 21.
Last year’s rankings are in parentheses.
30. Yordano Ventura, SP, Kansas City Royals (NR): We liked Ventura enough for 2014 that we slotted him 129th in our Starting Pitcher Rankings, and so far, he’s vastly exceeded our expectations. He’s already got his first two MLB wins under his belt and has rapidly become a must-start Fantasy asset with immediate positive value. Ventura is the real deal, armed with a 100 mph fastball (see video below), and if you can employ him at a bargain price in a daily fantasy league, you need to roll with him until his price rises. Last year, he had an astronomical K rate at Double-A before a promotion to Triple-A, where he proved he can win. Ventura finished the season getting his feet wet with a few starts in the majors. An MiLB.com Organizational All-Star last year, he has great K potential (over 10.1/9 in his minor league career), but could use slightly better control (although it’s not going to hold him back). In Ventura, we could be looking at this year’s Jose Fernandez to an extent.
29. Aaron Sanchez, SP, Toronto Blue Jays (54): When we slotted Sanchez 54th in our Top 60 Prospects a year ago, we said we didn’t think he’d be rushed, even after his breakout 2012 season. Sure enough, he spent the entire 2013 season at High-A before being promoted to Double-A this year. Early on this season, Sanchez is dealing with some wildness (26 walks, four hit batsmen and one wild pitch in 43 1/3 IP), but it has not hurt his bottom line results — yet. The righty is Toronto’s top prospect and while he dealt with some shoulder woes last year, he’s generally remained healthy as a pro. Sanchez could be a top of the rotation hurler, but he’ll need to sharpen that command along the way. His record at High-A wasn’t great in 20 starts and a low BABIP (.250) suggests a bit of luck was involved in keeping his ERA below 3.50. Sanchez’s K rate dipped in the AFL (although he made the All-Prospect Team), and so far this year, he’s benefited from a pretty high strand rate. Don’t be fooled by that very low ERA at Double-A as so far his peripherals don’t support it. In a nutshell, we love Sanchez’s K potential (he’s averaged over one per inning), but that control (4.7 BB/9 in his career) needs fixing. He has a perfect pitcher’s build (6′4″, 200).
28. Jackie Bradley Jr., OF, Boston Red Sox (46): We like Bradley enough for 2014 that we slotted him among the top 125 in our Outfield Rankings. He was slumping early before showing signs of life for Boston in late-April and then hitting the skids again in May. The fact that Grady Sizemore was shifted to left field bodes well for Bradley. The bottom line is that JBJ can hit, shows nice plate discipline and is a solid fielder. Last year, the kid smoked 10 homers in 80 games at Triple-A and was somewhat productive with the BoSox. This year, he’s showing modest improvements at the plate, but the extra-base power leaves something to be desired. Bradley is a very good prospect as evidenced by his being named an MiLB.com Organizational All-Star last year. He’s patient (.404 career OBP in minors) and doesn’t really have a true weakness, although we’d like to see more steals after he flashed strong baserunning skills in 2012. The open-stanced hitter should settle in as an above average player in time.
27. Gary Sanchez, C, New York Yankees (39): When we slotted Sanchez 39th last year in our Top 60 Prospects, we continued to worry about his contact skills, although he did makes strides in that area in 2012. Well, last year, the 21-year-old Dominican took another step forward in this regard. In 2013, Sanchez began the season back at High-A, and while his slugging diminished slightly, he was still promoted for the final few weeks to Double-A, where his BA dipped a tad, but his overall numbers were actually better. Obviously, this level suits him as he got off to a great start back at Double-A, with 20 hits through his first 17 games, before cooling since. Sanchez missed a few games in April and immediately snapped a skid upon his return, flashing high average skills and power. He’s about another year of development away from being ready to take on the majors, but we love the productivity he’s exhibiting this year — even if his early season numbers have been aided by a very high BABIP. A 2013 MiLB.com Organizational All-Star last year, Sanchez has tremendous power potential (career .469 slugging) but catcher speed. There’s massive upside here in a keeper league format.
26. Albert Almora, OF, Chicago Cubs (59): Almora is not a great basestealer, as we observed in the AFL last year, but he’s progressed to the point that he should be able to help the Cubs at some point in 2015. Having just turned 20, he’s already being lauded for his makeup. Almora has spent plenty of time over the years representing his country (he toiled for a half dozen different Team USA squads), and although he got off to a horribly slow start (0-for-13) at High-A this year, he’s come around and is flashing nice gap power. The key for him this year is health after injuries limited him to 61 games last season. An absolutely stellar outfielder, Almora’s strikeout rate rose at Class-A, but it was hardly a worrisome number. This year, he’s been very productive after that ugly beginning. Named to the AFL Rising Stars game last year, Almora is a tremendous contact hitter that could hit for a very high average in time, but we wonder how his ultra-aggressive approach will play at higher levels. Well, we’ll find out soon, once he reaches Double-A. No one doubts Almora’s ability to step in and win a Gold Glove or three, but will he continue to hit for a high average in the majors? That’s the big question here.
25. Mark Appel, SP, Houston Astros (NR): The Pirates drafted Appel in 2012, but had issues signing him and he wound up re-entering the draft last year, when he was taken first overall by Houston. Now he’s been sent to High-A Lancaster, noted as having pretty much the toughest pitcher’s park in all of baseball. So you will forgive us if we take Appel’s numbers this season with a grain of salt. The 22-year-old Texan was originally drafted out of high school in the 15th round in 2009 by Detroit, but opted to attend Stanford. That proved wise, as by the time Appel was ready to turn pro he was an absolutely awesome prospect. This season, he looked sharp in his first couple of starts, but after getting bitch slapped in his next two, he was sent down to extended Spring Training. Still, given this kid’s polish, weren’t not worried about him getting back on track very soon — especially since the Astros say there is no injury. After signing last year, Appel made a pair of starts at Low-A, averaging well over a K per inning, before moving up to Class-A, where he continued to flash excellent control. He’s been criticized for his lack of fire, but as long as he keeps getting batters out, who cares? Appel is a groundball specialist so is very adept at keeping the ball in the yard, but his strikeout potential could be limited. The 6′5″ righty is a future top-of-the-rotation hurler that will likely make his MLB debut some time next year.
24. Billy Hamilton, OF, Cincinnati Reds (23): Hamilton got off to an awful start this year, causing owners to panic. The fact is, Cincy’s offense as a whole is struggling with the change from Shin-Soo Choo to the speedster Hamilton. Hamilton seemed to get off the schneid and was starting to hit, but then a hand injury (suffered while sliding headfirst) sidelined him. So far, he’s struggled on the basepaths, isn’t hitting for average, is having a tough time getting on base and is hitting with nearly no power. The Reds have stuck with Hamilton as their lead-off man, but for how long? Even with his speed, his offense is hurting the team. Last year, he scored a crapload of runs at Triple-A en route to being named an International League Post-Season All-Star. Ultimately, Hamilton owners will dominate the stolen base category, but will get much in the way of power. This 23-year-old has a chance to change the game the way Rickey Henderson once did.
23. Jorge Soler, OF, Chicago Cubs (51): A player we scouted at the AFL in 2013, Soler has had a tough 2014 season so far, hurting his hamstring in the season opener at Double-A and missing a month and change before finally returning. He’s making up for lost time, absolutely scorching the ball in the six games since coming back. The 22-year-old Cuban is a major talent when healthy, and we’re confident that the Cubs’ nine-year, $30 million investment in this kid will pay off. We may be higher on Soler than some, but we think if he can shake off maturity issues (no, hopefully he’s not Yasiel Puig II), and stop getting hurt (last year he busted a leg), he’s going to move fast. Soler is a future All-Star that got some nice experience at High-A before polishing his game further at the AFL, where he was selected to play in the Rising Stars game. Get this dude about 75 games of experience at Double-A and we think he’ll be ready to move to the next level — possibly even the majors. Soler has serious power potential, but is unlikely to be a major source of steals. Because of the health setbacks, we have only begun to scratch the surface of what he is capable of.
22. Kyle Zimmer, SP, Kansas City Royals (NR): The emergence of Zimmer was one of the reasons the Royals felt they could allow Ervin Santana to walk away from the team. The team’s 2012 first rounder (fifth overall), Zimmer is a key component of one of the top minor league systems in the game. Shoulder woes this spring have kept him at Extended Spring Training, but he’s expected to rejoin Double-A within the next couple of weeks. Zimmer, who can bring the heat, has a legitimate chance to help KC this season, even given the loss of the opening few weeks. In his first full season last year, he had some long ball issues at High-A, but didn’t look overmatched at all in the last couple of weeks at Double-A. We love Zimmer’s strikeout potential (140 Ks in 108 1/3 IP over two levels last year), but we’ll be watching his homers allowed closely as he rises through the system. This righty has a tremendous arsenal of pitches which bodes well for his long-term prognosis as a big leaguer, which should begin in earnest in 2015.
21. Robert Stephenson, SP, Cincinnati Reds (NR): Stephenson announced his presence as a serious prospect last year by starting the year at Class-A and winding up all the way at Double-A. The Reds’ first rounder in 2011 is back at Double-A to start the year, and if he continues to improve he could put himself in line for a look in September. The righty has quickly become Cincinnati’s top prospect and is generating plenty of buzz among the Red faithful. The 21-year-old has been extremely inconsistent so far this season, but is also surprisingly advanced for a high school arm. Last year, he proved he can win at Class-A, quickly whipped through High-A before struggling to win at Double-A. This year, his strand rate has been low, suggesting he’s better than his numbers. We’d definitely like to see Stephenson do a better job of keeping the ball in the yard before considering him ready for the next step. Still, he has elite strikeout potential, so if the gopheritis is addressed, the sky is the limit here. Stephenson looks like a future No. 2 starter, and the fact that he’s moved through the system quicker than anticipated speaks to his maturity.
Now it’s your turn. Let us know in the comments below which of these prospects you’re most drooling over.
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