Clint Frazier went fifth overall in last year’s draft. (AP Photo/Tony Dejak)
And we are back, with the second part of our Top 65 Prospects. So while you Billy Hamilton owners begin to panic, let’s take a look at prospects 50 through 41.
Prospects 65 through 51 are here.
Last year’s rankings in parentheses.
50. Clint Frazier, OF, Cleveland Indians (NR): When the Indians drafted Frazier fifth overall last year, they hoped he’d bring much-needed power into their system. Signed to a $3.5 million bonus, he wasted no time flashing that pop in the Arizona Rookie League, spanking five dingers and five triples in 44 games. In fact, Indian insiders report that Frazier has more power than Manny Ramirez did at the same age (19). Some think Frazier is the Indians’ second best prospect, but we want to see what he does at full-season ball before bumping him up more. Still, he didn’t skip a beat moving to pro ball, and is a serious high end talent in a system that lacks depth. The right-handed hitting Frazier showed no vulnerability against righties, recording an 875 OPS en route to being named an AZL Post-Season All-Star. So far, Frazier has been durable, but like many young hitters, needs to improve his contact rates. There may not have been a better source of power in last year’s draft than this kid (check out the video below to get a sense of how much pop is in his quick, compact swing), so it will be exciting to see what kind of home run totals he can amass as he moves up the ladder.
49. Raul Mondesi, SS, Kansas City Royals (NR): Signed out of the Dominican Republic at the age of 16, Mondesi is the sire of former MLB outfielder Raul Mondesi. Last year was his debut at full-season ball, and while he proved he needs to work on his base stealing prowess, he definitely held his own considering he was just 17 for most of the season. Mondesi will move to High-A this year, playing for a Wilmington team that will boast plenty of prospect talent. Also known as Aladberto, Raul is a switch-hitter and despite his tender age, he should be able to adjust to moves up the ladder based on his familiarity of being around a big league clubhouse thanks to his dad.
48. Kohl Stewart, SP, Minnesota Twins (NR): When we reviewed the first round of the draft last year, it wasn’t clear yet that Stewart would choose baseball over football (he had committed to play QB at Texas A&M), but he did in fact sign with the Twinkies. So Stewart could have had Johnny Manziel’s old job, but a signing bonus of $4,544,400 swayed him to the diamond. After getting his feet wet professional last year in the GCL and Appalachian League (and looking every bit like a future ace), Stewart will head to Low-A this year, pitching in a prospect-laden rotation that will also include Yorman Landa and Felix Jorge. Stewart averaged a strikeout per inning in the GCL, so it was clear he was ready for full-season ball. Armed with a tremendous slider that could still get better, this former Texas high school star could soar up 25 or 30 slots on this list next year depending on how well he adjusts to the next level. But our guess is that the 19-year-old righty will do just fine thanks to a very projectable build (he’s 6′3″, 195) and one of the strongest arms of any high school pitcher in the 2013 draft.
47. Danny Hultzen, SP, Seattle Mariners (10): Hultzen was a top 10 prospect a year ago, but we didn’t think he had much of shot to win a job out of Spring Training. This year, the opportunity was wide open, however, the young hurler has been injury stricken for nearly a year now and is unable to take advantage. He missed most of the 2013 campaign with shoulder woes but was scheduled to pitch in the AFL. He had to be replaced from that showcase to undergo surgery on his shoulder — a procedure that will cost him the entire 2014 season. Now you understand why Hultzen has plummeted in our rankings. Seattle sure has been decimated by injuries to its rotation, but the hope is that Hultzen will be recovered in time to pitch in this year’s AFL. This kid was ready to strike out a batter per inning in the bigs, but now he’ll have to come back from a procedure that is the toughest for any pitcher to overcome. In his limited time at Triple-A last year, Hultzen’s control was much improved, suggesting he was ready before he got hurt, but this injury really damages the overall strength of Seattle’s farm system. Meanwhile, the Mariners are still trying to get a return on the $8.5 million, five-year major league deal they gave this kid after drafting him. With Hultzen’s ability to limit baserunners, no one doubts his potential to be a true ace, but the body of this southpaw from the University of Virginia, the second overall pick in 2011, is not cooperating.
46. Maikel Franco, 3B, Philadelphia Phillies (NR): We like Franco’s 2014 prospects enough to slot him 45th among our Third Base Rankings. He’s not exactly blessed with much range, so we’re not sure he’s going to stick at the hot corner long term, but no one questions his bat. Franco has shown the ability to work the count and be a productive hitter — even when he’s behind in the count. Even at the age of 21, he would likely be an average major league hitter, with tons of upside, of course. Last year, Franco split the season between High-A and Double-A, showing improved contact rates at High-A, and very little drop off in power at the higher level. Overall, he hit a robust .320 with less walks, but also less strikeouts (as contact hitting seemed to work for him). The Phillies’ top prospect was signed out of the Dominican in 2010 ($100,000 bonus) and last year made it to the Futures Game — as sure a sign as there is that you’ve arrived as a top prospect. Franco has proved durable so far, but don’t expect anything in the way of speed from this kid — he’s swiped all of four bases in four professional seasons heading into this year. He’s still a wee bit raw, but in time, he is likely to wield a middle of the order stick with some serious power.
45. Trevor Bauer, SP, Cleveland Indians (18): Bauer was in our top 20 prospects last season when we predicted he would make at least a few starts for the Tribe. Sure enough he did start four games for Cleveland over the course of the season. However, once again this year, Bauer failed to earn a rotation job out of Spring Training, and this — combined with his rather pedestrian work at Triple-A last year — has caused him to slide significantly in this year’s rankings. His ERA rose almost a run and a half at Triple-A and he was slightly more hittable during his time with the Indians. In fact, high strand rates suggest his ERA could have been much worse in the majors and at Triple-A. Still, early struggles by Carlos Carrasco could force the Tribe to turn to Bauer before long, so let’s not bury this kid yet. (In fact, Bauer is scheduled to start for Cleveland in the second game of a doubleheader Wednesday.) Let’s face it, it seems like Bauer has been around forever and a day, but he’s still only 23. He’s slid out of the top 70 on some prospect lists, but we’re holding out hope that will figure it out. Okay, Bauer’s had some long-ball issues, but we love how durable he’s been in his three seasons as a pro so far. A huge star college, he has given us plenty of reasons to wonder whether he can be an ace or not in the bigs. We’re willing to give Bauer one more year of development to find out.
44. Alen Hanson, SS, Pittsburgh Pirates (57): Hanson has moved into the top 45 this year and is now getting close enough to the majors that we slotted him 55th in our Shortstop Rankings. The fact that Pirates were sniffing around and asking about Didi Gregorious is not a good sign and lends credence to the long-standing belief that Hanson may not be able to stay at shortstop long term. Still, Hanson is only 21, and we’ve heard many positive reports about his defensive improvement. Named to the Bradenton Marauders all-time team, he will begin this season at Double-A, where he played 35 games last year. Hanson flashed some extra-base pop this spring, and while some believe he’s only the fifth best Pirate prospect, we slot him third, although there’s no doubt he struggled to follow up his breakout 2012 season. His BABIP was somewhat on the high side at High-A last year, so we’ll view that .281 BA with a grain of salt. It’s unlikely Hanson will ever top low double-digit power, but his BA potential and speed make him an intriguing prospect — especially if he remains at short. He improved his contact rate at High-A, but saw a fairly significant dip in BA at Double-A. All told, Hanson did put together his second straight 30-steal season and was sent to the AFL where he made the Rising Stars game. He’s proved durable in his pro career, but will need to improve his patience to take advantage of his skills that profile him as a top of the order threat. Hanson is a slap-hitting switch-hitter type.
43. Max Fried, SP, San Diego Padres (NR): Fried is part of a nice collection of young arms the Padres have built up, but hopefully he’ll avoid the health issues that have plagued many San Diego hurlers in recent years. However, the seventh overall pick in 2012 is dealing with an elbow strain this spring, so he has yet to report to High-A Lake Elsinore, instead staying back at extended Spring Training. Fried is making progress, so he should be ready to pitch in a game before May. Some consider this kid only the third best prospect in the San Diego system, but for our money, he ranks second, and when it comes to southpaws, there are few better youngsters in the minors. Fried’s walk rate rose at Class-A, and we’d like to see him address that before it becomes problematic, and the fact is his bottom line results were likely a tad on the lucky side. We’d also like to see his K rate get back over the eight per nine range. Until this elbow woe, Fried has proved fully healthy, so hopefully this is just a minor issue, as he’s just a few control tweaks away from being a major force. Our guess is that once his BB/9 gets down to a more acceptable range of around three, this kid will move very, very quickly. So for our money, he’s a lot closer to the bigs than it seems.
42. Corey Seager, SS, Los Angeles Dodgers (NR): Seager, one of the players we scouted in the AFL last year, is considered a top 20 prospect by some, but we’re waiting to see him excel at High-A before fully jumping on the bandwagon. Still, he’s a gem in a Dodger system that has rebuilt itself very nicely in recent years. The Dodgers’ 2012 first rounder, Seager showed very fine power at Class-A, but it’s kind of gone AWOL since he was promoted to High-A last year and has not really bounced back in the early going in 2014. As a result, we’re not ready to call him the No. 1 prospect in the Dodgers’ system just yet, although age is definitely on his side (he won’t be 20 until late this month). He was way above average at Class-A, but his walk rate dipped slightly and the rest of his game crashed and burned with the move to High-A for the final month. Seager didn’t exactly redeem himself at the AFL, either (although he still made the Rising Stars game). He’s started the season back at High-A and will need to pick up his game if he’s going to make it to Double-A before the end of 2014 (a .200 BA through the first week isn’t inspiring a ton of confidence). We love Seager’s power potential — especially if he can stay at shortstop, but he’ll need to improve his contact skills as he moves up the ladder. He’s young, seems to have a good grasp of the game, and has the potential to be an across-the-board contributor if everything breaks right.
41. Andrew Heaney, SP, Miami Marlins (NR): A big star at OK State, Heaney was plucked ninth overall in 2012 by the Fish. The southpaw has quickly emerged as the team’s top prospect after proving he could win at High-A and continuing to excel after the big jump to Double-A for the final month. Heaney’s spring performance proved he’s not far at all from being a big leaguer. This season, he’s back at Double-A Jacksonville, anchoring a prospect-laced rotation, and it wouldn’t be shocking at all to see him force his way up to Miami fairly early in the season — and not just hold his own, but be Fantasy worthy. Heaney’s results last season were probably a tad luck-aided at both levels, but the fact that his K rate dipped at Double-A worried us, and we’ll be watching that closely as an indicator of when he’ll be ready for the next step. The 22-year-old was hit pretty hard in his season debut, so clearly, at least a couple of months of seasoning is in order. So far, Heaney has been durable, but we’d like more dominant ratios before considering him as a top 40 or higher prospect. Although he’s advanced for his age, his upside is limited. Heaney will likely top out as a No. 4 starter, and there’s a chance the Marlins may have reached for him in the draft.
Now it’s your turn. Let us know in the comments which of these players you’re keeping an eye on this season.
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