The 2014 RotoRob MLB Draft Kit nears completion today as our Top 65 Prospects countdown carries on. So while you wonder if Johnny Manziel has a future with the Padres, let’s have a look at prospects 20 through 11.
Last year’s rankings are in parentheses.
20. Gregory Polanco, OF, Pittsburgh Pirates (NR): Last month on our Podcast, we advised that smart owners had already begun stashing Polanco some time ago given how his performance this season was demanding a promotion to the majors. The Pirates could definitely use the kick in the pants he will likely provide, but they refused to start his service clock early, meaning we didn’t see him until mid June, regardless of the mockery he made of Triple-A (see video below). Polanco slumped a bit in early May, but he’s right back in the groove now and let’s face it — the daunting RF combo of Jose Tabata and Travis Snider could only hold this kid off for so long. Even the scorching Josh Harrison won’t be able to stop him. Polanco has recently shifted from CF to RF, so yes, we suppose he needed a bit of time to adjust to that. Still, adding Polanco is the kind of move that could spur a turnaround and get the Buccos right back in the playoff chase. Last year, he was extremely productive at High-A, forcing a promotion to Double-A and even a two-game stint at Triple-A. This year, Polanco has already surpassed his homer output from Double-A, while racking up a ridiculous 86 hits in his first 62 games. Signed out of the Dominican in 2010, he’s got tremendous speed (130 steals in 408 minor league games) and the athleticism to become a serious star.
19. Kris Bryant, 3B, Chicago Cubs (NR): We slotted Bryant 46th in our Third Base Rankings, indicating we thought he might hold a bit of value this season. However, with Mike Olt starting to get his act together in Chicago, Bryant’s long-term future may be in the outfield. Bryant, the second overall pick in the draft last year (but arguably the best player available), has been putting on a show at Double-A, carrying the torch for the next wave of Cubs. He’s likely to arrive at Wrigley either later this year, or definitely some time in 2015. Bryant has tremendous power and the potential to develop into a perennial all-star. Obviously, we like him better as a third baseman than as an outfielder, but his stick is good enough to play anywhere. Last year, he played a couple of games at Rookie ball, dominated at Low-A and then flashed major power at High-A. Now Bryant is getting valuable experience at Double-A and is piling up the counting cats (55 runs and 54 RBI in 62 games). A.356 BA with major power? Seriously? This dude is one of the top batting prospects in the game, and even while his contact skills need work, we could be talking about a future batting champion with massive pop. While Cubs top prospect Javier Baez stole the show at Spring Training, the scouts love Bryant too — and with good reason.
18. Travis d’Arnaud, C, New York Mets (9): When we slotted d’Arnaud ninth in our Top 60 Prospects last year, we were expecting him to be somewhat of a factor in the majors in 2013. Unfortunately, injuries delayed his arrival, so he only wound up getting 105 at-bats with the Mets. That loss of development time caused d’Arnaud to slip in our rankings, but by no means are we no longer high on this kid. The youngster dealt with a concussion this season, and his struggled caused him to be demoted back to Triple-A. These false starts to his career have restricted his value, making him an excellent buy-low candidate in keeper leagues. After two concussions with the hockey-style mask, he has opted to go old school with his mask choice. Because d’Arnaud plays the most demanding position in the game, owners need to be patient with his development, but you will be rewarded in time. The former Blue Jay farmhand was the key component the Mets received for R.A. Dickey and in time will develop into a power-hitting backstop with typical catcher speed. For our money, there is still no greater catching prospect in the game.
17. George Springer, OF, Houston Astros (47): When Springer first arrived in the Show in late-April, we were quick to recommend him. However, when he struggled for a few weeks, many were tempted to cut bait, but we pleaded patience. If you listened to us, you are now reaping the rewards as Springer has been one of the hottest players in the game, batting .343 with eight jacks and 20 RBI over an 18-game stretch. After a five-run explosion on May 25, he had scored 20 runs through his first 35 games. Springer enjoyed a big May, perhaps as part of a big season. Don’t be shocked if he’s a top 50 hitter by season’s end. Last year, Springer was uber productive at Double-A, and he continued to pile up the counting cats upon promotion to Triple-A. This season, his BABIP was likely unsustainable at Triple-A, forcing the promotion to Houston. The 11th overall pick from 2011 was an MiLB.com Organizational All-Star last year, and is likely finished winning minor league accolades. Springer possesses elite skills across the board, except for contact, but we’ll deal with his strikeout rates as long as he maintains a nice BA and keeps racking up the dingers, steals and walks. This kid is a key building block in what will one day be a competitive Houston team.
16. Addison Russell, SS, Oakland A’s (NR): In slotting Russell 51st in this year’s Shortstop Rankings, we offered up a glimmer of hope that he could be useful this season. Some experts put Russell even higher than this, but we’re not convinced he’s going to stay at shortstop, and the fact that he was hurt (torn hamstring) earlier this season did not help solve the debate. He finally returned to action in June, later than anticipated. Just 20, Russell would likely be a useful major league right now, but mostly because of his defense. Still, the fact that he already has the skill to be an above average big leaguer at his age suggests that there’s serious star potential here when he reaches his mid-20s. Last year, he piled up the runs at High-A before a late-season trial at Triple-A. Russell also managed to pile up plenty of runs at the AFL. This year, he was ripping the ball in the first couple of games at Double-A before the injury and he immediately started hitting again upon his return. The 11th overall pick in 2012 has great basestealing skills as is now Oakland’s undisputed top prospect (which isn’t saying much given the A’s paucity of impact prospects right now). Russell has elite power potential and the rest of his skills –except contact — are well above average. Obviously, we like him a lot more if he doesn’t shift to third, but as a shortstop that can hit for a high average with pop and speed, he’s going to be Fantasy gold.
15. Jon Gray, SP, Colorado Rockies (NR): Gray’s emergence, along with several other arms in the Colorado system (Daniel Winkler, Eddie Butler and Tyler Matzek, for instance), will help shake the idea that the Rox can’t produce pitching. The third overall pick from last year’s draft, he is still adjusting to life at Double-A. Gray had been on a real roll, until getting roughed up in his last couple of starts. Still, he’s proved he can win at this level, so the former All-American may soon be ready for either Triple-A or perhaps the bigs — even though he still has less than 100 innings as a pro. Gray’s command has been off the charts good, so as long as he remains healthy, with that lethal fastball-slider combo, he’ll likely be a No. 1 or 2 starter.
14. Nick Castellanos, 3B/OF, Detroit Tigers (11): Because he was only going to be OF eligible to begin the season, we listed Castellanos 69th in our Outfield Rankings. Well, given his slow start, he’s not yet a top 100 OFer, but the good news is he now qualifies at third base as well. Even with a sluggish start, Castellanos was proving productive, tied for the team lead in RBI in early May. Don’t expect any speed from him (just 15 steals in four minor league seasons), but the fact that he’s showing modest development in some areas in his first full season in the bigs is great news. Castellanos’ walk rate isn’t as robust as it was in the minors, and that’s a worry, because he doesn’t have hug power potential. The 22-year-old, a Topps Triple-A All-Star last year, will figure it out. We have all confidence in his ability because he’s such a pure hitter. There’s a reason Castellanos hit over .300 in four minor league seasons — this 2010 supplemental first round pick will have his day, so keeper league owners need to show patience.
13. Kevin Gausman, SP/RP, Baltimore Orioles (50): The fact that Gausman first showed up in the majors as quick as he did is a perfect reason that owners — even in redraft leagues — need to pay close attention to the MLB Draft. This year, he was brought up for one start and things didn’t go so well, so he was shipped back to Triple-A, but make no mistake — this righty is poised to break through and become a key cog in the Orioles rotation for years to come (to wit, his second start was brilliant). Gausman’s struggles at the big league level (in limited chances) will cause some owners to sour on him, making him an ideal buy-low target. One look at what he’s accomplished at Triple-A tells you that it’s a matter of when not if with this kid. Gausman throws hard and will really be able to help Fantasy owners in the strikeout department (he’s averaging over one per inning at Triple-A). The former LSU star had a rough outing upon being demoted back to Triple-A, but since then he’s sparkled again. The fact that the Orioles signed Ubaldo Jimenez at the last minute this year doomed Gausman to another season of Triple-A — at least to start the year. But it’s a long season, and once the youngster masters his command at the big league level, look out. Gausman’s walk rate in the minors is a tad worrisome this season, but his control has been so sharp in the past that we’re going to assume it’s a blip. We do like the fact he’s inducing more groundballs in the minors this year — that will stead him well. Ultimately, the key for Gausman is limiting baserunners — especially since he’s shown he can be susceptible to the long ball (at least during his stints in the majors). The 23-year-old 6′4″ hurler spurned the Dodgers in 2010 so he could attend LSU, which will work out great for B-More, thank you very much.
12. Noah Syndergaard, SP, New York Mets (52): We had Syndergaard just outside the top 50 last year, but he’s soared 40 spots after a solid half season at High-A followed by an even better half season of Double-A. This year, his ERA is over 4.00 at Triple-A, but it’s Las Vegas, so take that number with a big grain of salt. The former Blue Jays prospect came to New York in the R.A. Dickey deal and is a big part of what’s become a rebuilt Mets’ farm system. Unfortunately, Syndergaard recently dealt with a forearm injury (always a red flag, and it’s often a precursor to Tommy John surgery) and he was shelled in his return, so let’s hope this is truly a minor blip as suggested by the MRI. Syndergaard has been racking up the wins at Triple-A, and you’ve got to figure once he gets rolling again, he’s very close to a promotion to the bigs. We love his strikeout potential (nearly 10 per nine in his minor league career), and there’s really no weak link in his game (although the 3.15 BB/9 at Triple-A is higher than we’re accustomed to from him). As good as Zack Wheeler has looked at times this year, Syndergaard has even more upside. Yes, it’s actually an exciting time to be a Mets fan, for once.
11. Dylan Bundy, SP, Baltimore Orioles (2): Part of a collection of nice young arms the Orioles have, Bundy is still recovering from 2013 Tommy John surgery. The good news is he’s passed the extended Spring Training test and is now ready to head out on a rehab assignment. Once Bundy is prepared for another taste of the Show, the Orioles are going to be flush with righty prospects (Gausman and Hunter Harvey). The fact that the 21-year-old Bundy, part of the pitching rich 2011 draft, is still the Orioles top prospect even after missing a season speaks volumes about his talent. He does a very good job of limiting baserunners, but it remains to be seen how dominant he’ll be a from a strikeout perspective. Bundy has the makings of a future ace, but we really need to see more from him. We’ll finally get our wish shortly.
Now it’s your turn. Let us know in the comments below which prospects you’re tracking.
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