Entering May, Minnesota Twins Byron Buxton was my favorite to seize the label of number one prospect in baseball entering 2014. Diamondbacks pitcher Archie Bradley ranked second as he pushed through High-A and finished April in the Southern League. Shortstop Francisco Lindor of the Cleveland Indians debuted in the third spot after a dominant month offensively. Twins’ Miguel Sano, claimed the fourth spot, as well as the label of best power hitting prospect in the game. Rounding out the top five was Boston Red Sox prospect Xander Bogaerts, who received a partial mulligan for a weak April due to his being the highest rated prospect in baseball entering 2013 not expected to surpass rookie at bats/innings pitched limits.
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With the Dodgers in last place and Yasiel Puig on fire in Double-A, pressure to call up the Cuban outfielder is building. In his last ten games, the 22-year-old has posted a .395/.465/.658 slash line, including seven extra base hits and six steals. Healthy and productive, Puig is once again knocking on the door to Los Angeles.
Earlier in the week, Dave Cameron discussed Andre Ethier being “eminently available” after comments and a benching by Manager Don Mattingly. Combine losing with mammoth contracts and the potential for roster shakeup seems inevitable. No individual stands to gain more than Yasiel Puig if this occurs. Read the rest of this entry »
Mike Newman Prospect Chat
When it comes to minor league and amateur baseball, scouting box scores tells only a piece of the story. In mid-April, I had the opportunity to travel to Greenville, S.C., to see West Virginia Pirates right-hander Clay Holmes. Five days later, North Carolina State ace Carlos Rodon pitched the Saturday night game at Georgia Tech. As of today, Rodon is the top prospect in the 2014 draft.
Admittedly, my last NCAA baseball game was in 2011, when now-Mariners prospect Danny Hultzen faced off against now-Padres prospect Mark Pope. Carson Cistulli would shame me in public for my general lack of interest in the college game, but that lack of familiarity is a driving factor for this piece.
Ninety-nine — a number rarely seen once, let alone multiple times from the same pitcher. In his last start, Mauricio Cabrera touched 99 mph enough for teammates charting in the stands to chuckle and shake their heads in disbelief.
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“I’m working on catching balls in the pocket,” Pirates’ minor league catcher Wyatt Mathisen told me as we talked about the nuances of his game outside the Greenville Drive locker room last month. Mathisen’s candor left me speechless. When you’re talking to a professional baseball player, there are some things you just assume. And one of those is the ability to catch a ball properly.
So where does he go from here — this 19-year-old converted shortstop, this catcher under construction? Talk to Mathisen for a few minutes and you see a young man who acknowledges his weaknesses; but there’s also a ballplayer who’s eager to improve.
Video after the jump:
With a month of the minor league season in the books, chat questions are already rolling in about who the top prospect will be in 2014. Each month, I’ll take a look at players who were close in 2013 (we’ll call them “Headliners”), plus fast risers who are staking an early claim to the top spot (we’ll call them “Opening Acts”).
To begin this exercise, it’s important to understand where the number one pick comes from. Since 1990, Baseball America has been releasing its top-100 prospects list. Below is a chart of the year, number-one prospect, and where he ranked the year previous. Read the rest of this entry »