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Top 25 Minnesota Twins Prospects 2014

Posted by diehardtwinsfan , 07 August 2014 · 2,651 views

Last year, I decided to put together a top 20 list that became a top 21 list (b/c I forgot to include Kepler) towards the end of the season in large part b/c the product on the field was pretty bad and b/c I wanted something to talk about. It seems like it could be a fairly fun tradition to maintain, so I'm doing it again this year. I've expanded it out a bit more, and this is in large part due to the fact that the system has gotten stronger. The results from many of the 2012/13 drafts have been very encouraging, and many of the guys on this list have been dropped, not b/c their outlook has changed, but b/c the system has added more people that look to be very capable major leaguers. Last year's list did not graduate any of the members on it (Sulbaran was traded, but that was it), though I had to make a decision to keep Pinto as he's accumulated ML service time. My choice to keep him is largely b/c it's pretty clear he is not a finished product, though I suspect his name will be off of most pundit's lists at this point. I've also kept Vargas, Darnell, Tonkin, and Polanco, all of whom have seen ML service time, but have very few appearances. I didn't rate Santana last year, and he's spent quite a bit of time in the majors showing incredible promise. I'd note that he's significantly out performed his minor league numbers to date. This is pretty rare, and even more so for a rookie. I suspect he will come back down to earth, but his start has been very encouraging.

The system as a whole was hurt by injuries to its top 2 prospects. This has likely delayed the transition time by a year as many people expected to see both Sano and Buxton this season. It may provide a bit of a blessing in disguise as the Twins will have one more season picking high than they otherwise would. On the flip side, many more guys have stepped up and are looking like very capable players. The farm system as a whole has improved.
In terms of ranking, I tend to put more emphasis on results. I like tools, but I have a difficult time with guys like Max Kepler who have the tools, but haven't gotten the results. As such, I include guys like Logan Darnell, who isn't a toolsy guy, but has gotten some pretty good results to date. It's also why I have Polanco ranked above Gordon. It's not a slight to Gordon, but Polanco has done well at much higher levels at the same position than Gordon.

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1) Byron Buxton - CF (1) - Buxton remains at the top spot as a five tool player who surprised a lot of people. He raked in both Cedar Rapids and Fort Meyers last season and would have likely started in AA except for a injuries. He has managed to injure both wrists this year. He looked like he had found his old form in A+ only to sustain his second wrist injury. His results thus far in FTM are nothing special, but given the injuries and late start, he's essentially going through his spring training right now. He boasts 5 tool talent at a premium defensive position. His power hasn't quite developed yet, but 20 home run potential seems pretty reasonable. EST 2016 opening day.

2) Miguel Sano - 3B (2) - Sano will miss all of 2014 to TJS. TJS doesn't affect hitters quite the same way it does pitchers, but the Twins are being cautious with their future slugger. Sano will likely begin 2014 in AA where he 'struggled' in his first taste in 2012. His struggles were contact related, posting only a .236 BA, but still managing a .915 OPS. Sano has 80 grade power according to a number of scouts and he will slot into the middle of the order for years to come. His biggest weakness is his contact. He's demonstrated the ability to make contact in the lower minors last season, but he still needs to cut down on the strike outs. EST 2016 opening day.

3) Alex Meyer - RH SP (3) - Meyer is the first of many pitching prospects in the system, and he was acquired by the Twins in large part due to pitching being a weakness of the system at that time. Meyer's overall numbers in AAA look pretty good, sporting an ERA of 3.05. He's striking out more than 10 batters per 9 innings, and can throw in the upper 90s. AAA hitters have not hit well off of him, but his glaring weakness right now is walks, walking nearly a batter every 2 innings. Meyer is still refining his third pitch, but he boasts 2 plus pitches to go with it. He will likely see some time in the bull pen this September and possibly sooner, but he still needs to work on control, as he will struggle in the majors if he continues walking this many batters. EST 2014 Sept callup, SP sometime in 2015.

4) Kohl Stewart - RH SP (5) - Stewart's 1st professional season can only be described as successful. As one of the youngest players in the MWL, Stewart is among the leaders in a number of categories. His biggest knock so far has been a lack of strike outs, though this appears to be due more to his development plan than his talent. He's largely shelved one of his better pitches and has been focusing on developing his fastball. He boasts potential of having 4 plus pitches, and he throws in the mid 90s. He's currently been sidelined due to should soreness, but this appears to be minor. His ceiling is a top of the rotation arm. EST 2017.

5) JO Berrios - RH SP (8) - Berrios appears to have taken a huge step forward this season in his second full season of professional baseball. He destroyed the FSL posting K rate over 10/9 innings and walking just over 2 hitters per 9 innings. He also boasts a mid 90s fastball and advanced control for players his age. He's one of the youngest players in AA presently, though he has struggled in his first taste of the league. He's also a bit shorter than the average pitcher, which some analysts (namely Keith Law) think will make it difficult for him to succeed. That said, his ceiling is like the other pitchers on this list. He can be a top of the rotation guy if things break right. He will finish out this season in AA and probably start there next year as well. EST late 2015.

6) Trevor May - RH SP (7) - When May was drafted, he was considered by many to have a top of the rotation ceiling. His early career in Philly showed impressive strikeout ability, but he struggled with control. After being traded to Minnesota, he showed an improvement in his walk rate to the tune of approximately .7BB/9 IP. However, his peripherals did not improve much. AAA in 2014 has been a different story. He's recorded a similar drop in his walk rate, maintaining a much more respectable rate of around 3.3/9 IP and is still striking out batters at a rate of 1/inning. He has shaved 2 full hits per 9 IP as well, giving him a very respectable 1.12 WHIP. Given the step forward, May is looking more like a starter than the reliever that many had him pegged for, and he'd have likely been in MN had it not been for a calf injury. I think his ceiling is still on the top end of the rotation being anywhere from a 1-3 starter. ETA any time.

7) Jorge Polanco - SS/2B (11) - When Polanco was signed, his defense was considered to be the prize and his bat was questionable. As a pro, his bat has shown quite a bit of promise, and it's his glove that needs work. Forgetting the 6 AB sample in MN, he's amassed a career minor league OPS of .773 with each of the last 3 seasons being above that mark. He's struggling a bit in AA right now, and there's question whether he's going to be able to stick at SS, but he's showing promise as a 2B. With Dozier and Santana occupying those positions at the ML level, the Twins have time to be patient with him, but he is on the 40 man and ahs the luxury of a 4th option as well. ETA mid 2016.

8) Nick Gordon - SS (unrnk) Gordon was the number 5 overall pick. I dropped him down a bit b/c as of yet he hasn't done much. He has all the tools as well as major league bloodlines, so his future is bright. Hopefully he can do a 2013 Buxton and rocket up this list next season. That's probably asking too much, but one can hope. He's likely to start 2015 in Cedar Rapids. ETA fall of 2018.

9) Josmil Pinto - C (6) - I elected to keep Pinto on this list because it's pretty clear that the Twins management thinks he has work to do. His bat is probably ML ready now, but he clearly needs to work on his defense behind the dish. I still think he can be an above average catcher if he can improve his defense. He'll likely be up again in September and I suspect he's going to be starting 2015 as the 2nd C/part time DH.

10) Kennys Vargas - 1B/DH (10) - Vargas is a beast of a human whose primary position is going to be DH. He sports a career minor league OPS of .854. He's not going to bring much defensively to the table and he's just been called up to the majors. His walk rate is pretty decent and he's dropped his K rate by a decent margin this year as well. At 23, he looks to be a middle of the order bat, though I suspect he's going to take some lumps in MLB before he's ready. He's here now, so no new ETA, but I'm guessing he returns to AAA next year at some point. He's in MN to stay late 2015.
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I've read from a few sources that the 11-20 of the Twins is better than some team's top 10 picks. As you will see below, here's why. This list reminds me of the Twins top 10 lists from a few years back: Loaded with talent who have done very well in the lower minors, but pretty weak near the top. That's pretty good considering that everyone in the top 10 except for Buxton and Stewart has seen time in AA (and I expect Buxton to get promoted in the near future).

11) Nick Burdi - RP (unrnk). I don't normally rank relief pitchers this high, but Burdi looks like a good chance of being a special one. Forgetting his professional debut, he's striking out nearly 2 batters an inning in Cedar Rapids. I'm guessing he gets promoted to the FSL yet this season and should be on the fast track to the big leagues. He brings upper 90s heat and can hit triple digits on the gun from time to time. ETA, late 2015.

12) Eddie Rosario - 2B/CF (4) Rosario may be the biggest disappointment of the 2014 season. He served a 50 game suspension to start the year and has not performed well in his return. He's shown flashes of being that guy that was ranked 4th on my list last year. Keep in mind he's only 22, he's in AA, and he has a career minor league OPS of .839, even with his rather forgettable season thus far. He's part of what appears to be a log jam of players at his positions in the organization right now, so he may be of more value to the team in a trade. His bat doesn't profile as a corner OF, so a move to the corner doesn't make a ton of sense. Other teams will value him more at CF or 2B, and as such, I suspect he may end up being traded if he puts things together given his spots will likely be held by Buxton, Hicks, Dozier, and Polanco. ETA late Fall 2016.

To be honest, I think the next 3 guys are all very interchangeable. All have the potential to be top of the rotation arms. They are all pitching in Cedar Rapids. They are all young for their league. When the 2014 MWL season began, Kohl Stewart was one of the youngest in the league. Since then, that title has been taken by Lewis Thorpe, who is more than a year younger than Stewart. Stephen Gonsalves is also younger than Stewart and is now pitching there.

One thing to keep in mind, however, about pitching prospects is that they are very hard to predict. A few years back, people in prospecting circles were drooling over the idea of landing Dellin Betances and/or Manny Banuelos from the Yankees in a potential trade. They were even nicknamed the Killer Bs. Both of these kids looked like they could be top of the rotation type arms. Fast forward to the present. Betances was forced to reinvent himself as a reliever. He was promoted in 2013 to the Yankees and has been pretty good as a reliever, but his days as a starter ended in 2013. Banuelos has seen a drop in his stats at each promotion and then missed all of 2013 to TJS. He made it up to AAA, but did not post anything close to the numbers that our current Rochester pitching staff is doing. He's currently rehabbing in AA. He's still a decent pitching prospect, but much of the shine has worn off. While the next 3 are certainly worth being excited over, the failure rate of young pitching prospects is pretty high. Most of us are drooling over the idea of a starting rotation in 3/4 years that could have some combination of Meyer, May, Berrios, Stewart, Thorpe, Gonsalves, and Hu. If all of them pan out, the Twins will likely be trading some of these guys for huge bounties to keep their system stocked and remain competitive. However, history says that some (or even most) of these guys will fail.

13) Lewis Thorpe - LH SP (13) - Thorpe absolutely destroyed the GCL as a 17 year old last year and started getting a lot of national love from prospecters. He turned 18 this year, and some experts said that Thorpe would likely have been a 1st rounder in this years draft had he been a US citizen. The Twins have also believed in him allowing him to skip the Appy league altogether. He predictably struggled in his MWL debut, but is also the youngest player in the league. His first four starts were pretty bad. He should improvement on his next four, and his last 3 have been pretty decent. His innings are a bit low as he's limited to about 75 pitches a game, but he's now got a very respectable K rate of 9.4/9 IP. His walk rate is still too high for the league. If he keeps trending in the right direction he may start in Fort Meyers, but he's likely to repeat at Cedar Rapids. He boasts mid-90s speed, and that could still improve given his age. He has top of the rotation potential if he continues to develop. ETA 2018.

14) Stephen Gonsalves - LH SP (14) - Gonsalves entered his senior year of high school with a reasonable hope that he could be drafted in the 1st round. However, a poor senior year and a suspension from the team eliminated him from quite a few team's draft boards as many expected him to go to college. The Twins got him in the 4th round of the 2013 draft, and right now this is looking like a steal. Gonsalves was recently promoted to the MWL and is currently getting good results. There's some question about his breaking pitches and how they develop, but if things break right, he represents another top of the rotation type arm. Like Thorpe, he can pitch in the low to mid 90s and could still add some speed to his pitches. ETA 2018.

15) Chih-Wei Hu - RH SP (unrnk) - I ingored Hu last season simply because of his age. He dominated the GCL, but unlike Thorpe/Gonsalves, he was older. He was given 3 starts in the Appy and sent to the MWL where he continues to dominate his opponents. At 20, he's not old for the MWL, and he boasts a mid 90s fastball. At this point, it's worth taking notice. He too could potentially be a top of the rotation arm if things continue to break positively. ETA 2018.

16) Sean Gilmartin LH SP (unrnk) - Gilmartin was at one point one of the top prospects in the Brave's system making AAA at age 22. He fell out of favor with the Braves and was traded to the Twins for Doumit this last offseason. The Twins assigned him to AA, where he seemed to have figured something out. He posted a 3.3 ERA with a K rate of over 9/9IP. He was promoted to Rochester where he's pitched well (though not as well), but still better than his previous 2 AAA stints. He's only 24. His ceiling is more of a mid-rotation guy, but he's been getting results at the higher levels. ETA 2016.

17) Mitch Garver C (unrnk) - After the 2013 draft, Garver was listed as a potential sleeper. For what was supposedly a weak draft, it has been productive for the Twins as he's the 3rd of 4 members on this list. His defense is good enough to stick at C, and thus far, the college draftee has destroyed the MWL to the tune of a > .860 OPS. His plate discipline is verry good as well as he has a K/BB ratio of around 1.2. He could profile as a decent defender with an above average bat. ETA 2017.

18) Travis Harrison 3B/LF (unrnk) - Harrison was drafted out of HS and started his career at age 19 in the Appy league. He was considered toolsy but raw and his consistenly performed better than league average (while being young for the league) but posted stats that tend to fly under the radar. He has dropped his K rate in the FSL this year while keeping his BB rate the same. His average has gone up as has his ability to hit doubles, though his HRs have dropped. This may have more to do with the spacious parks in the FSL, and he's my pick to have a break out season next year in AA. ETA late 2016.

19) Adam Brett Walker RF (9) - Walker is the definition of a high risk/high reward prospect. Drafted in the 3rd round of the 2012 draft, he absolutely destroyed the MWL in his first full year. Contact issues have been a concern, and they've been on display in 2014. His strikeouts have increased and his average has dropped. On the plus side, his walk rate has increased this season over last season, and he needs to get his K rate under control. He could be a star, but he could also flame out and never get beyond AA. He's also a bit faster than a typical RF type guy, so he should be able to provide decent defense in the corner if he makes it. I suspect he's going to repeat A+. ETA late 2017

20) Michael Tonkin RH RP (15) - Tonkin drops down a bit this year, though not due to his own performance. The 24 year old is in his second season at AAA. His peripheral numbers remain the same, though his ERA has dropped significantly. He wasn't terribly good in Minnesota this year, but he should be back to stay next season. He profiles as a back of the pen type reliever. ETA September.


21) Logan Darnell LH SP (18) - Darnell got off to a great start at the beginning of the season posting solid gains across all of his peripheral stats. He's cooled off a bit, and has also earned a 3 game trial in Minnesota this year. His ceiling remains a mid-rotation type guy with a floor of a 4/5 guy. He has a narrow window of opportunity to earn a spot in MN, and I suspect his value will come more from a trade once his options are gone. His walk rate is probably his biggest issue. ETA, September.


22) Jake Reed RH RP (unrnk) - This 2014 5th round pick is quickly turning into a surprise. He's a college junior and elected to sign instead of rolling the dice for a senior season. Thus far, he's been spectacular. He pitched only 4 games in the Appy, totalling 6 innings, striking out 8 and giving up only 1 hit. He was since promoted to Cedar Rapids, where his dominance has continued. His K/9 is over 11. His BB/9 is under 2, he's given up 1 earned run in 13 innings and has only given up 6 hits. Like Nick Burdi, he looks like he could be a fast riser though the system. Reed's fastball can hit mid-90s and by reports has a pretty decent slider as well. His ceiling is a back of the bullpen arm, and I suspect he's going to be fast tracked. ETA late 2016.

23) Tyler Duffey RH SP (unrnk) - When Duffey was first brought up in the TwinsDaily adopt a prospect forums, the general consensus was something along the lines of "Good luck". For Duffey though, it seems that he's gotten some help from more than just lady luck. While his ceiling is more of a back end rotation guy, he's rapidly moved up the system posting a 20-9 record with a 3.48 ERA in just over 2 seasons of work. His WHIP is a respectable 1.13 in AA right now and he's striking out just under 7 batters/9IP. Given the pitching depth, his role in the Twins will likely be more of a AAA guy/spot starter until his options are used up, and he'll probably find himself traded at some point. ETA 2015.


24) Amaurys Minier 3B (unrnk) - Minier was one of the big signings in 2012 and was given his first shot at rookie ball in 2013. He wasn't terribly good last year, but his second go around in the GCL at age 18 has been much better. The 3B has an OPS over .820 and is showing good plate discipline. He's not putting up the video game stats that some of the Twins better prospects have done in rookie ball, but at 18, he'd doing well enough to be on the radar. ETA 2020.

25) Max Kepler OF/1B (17) - People didn't agree with my ranking of Kepler last season, and I'm guessing that will continue. My preference is to find a good combination of results and tools. While Kepler has the tools, the results have been rather pedestrian other than a really good year in the Appy in 2012. This is Kepler's 5th season in the organization and his OPS in the FSL is under .700. It was noted when he signed that he would take some time to develop, but 5 years later, there's good reason to question to wonder how much that will actually happen. In his favor, he's ony 21 years old, and he is playing in a pitchers league. He was added to the 40 man this offseason and due to his slow progression gets an extra option for the team to work with. This will keep him in the system a bit longer, but he's in desparate need of a breakout season. ETA 2018.

Honorable mention: Jason Kanzler, Max Murphy, AJ Achter, Dallas Gallant, Zach Jones(21), JT Chargois, Aaron Slegers, and Tyler Jones.

Overall, the Twins system is easily a top 3 system, and from what I've read, there's a pretty big gap between what the Twins have and every other team except the Cubs. It's a very strong system top to bottom, but it's definitely stronger up the middle, which also happens to be the currency of baseball. Of the 25 guys mentioned here, 10 of them are starting pitchers. 7 of these starters could potentially be that ace that Twins fans have coveted since Santana left. In reality, there's no such thing as a pitching prospect, so the likeliness of many of those guys disappointing is rather high. That said, with 7 guys who could reach that potential, the odds of striking it rich is good. It's clear that the Twins have been targeting strengthening their pitching over the last few seasons as many of these pitchers have been added since Ryan took over. In addition, there are 3 more relief pitchers who look like they can reach the majors and provide excellent back of the pen help in the bottom half of this list. Several of the honorable mentions could also easily fit into this role but fell off the list due to age (Gallant, Tyler Jones) or injury (Chargois, Zach Jones). The bottom line is that the system looks like it could keep the MLB team in most of the pitching leader categories as these guys develop.

The same is true with middle infielders and center fielders. It's clear that the organization has been targeting help in these areas. Of the remaining 12 players, 5 of them (4 of which are in the top 10) fit into this category as well as 2 honorable mentions that at this point there's too little data to quantify. With Dozier locking down 2nd, and Santana looking like he may be an above average major league SS at this point, several of these guys will likely end up being traded if they continue to progress. Aaron Hicks, though not included in this list due to service time, also complicates things in a positive way, as I firmly believe that there's still hope for him to realize his potential, even with the setbacks. Teams tend to add more wins with guys who excel in these positions, as MLB average/replacement level for these positions is pretty low.

The system's weakness appears to be more along the lines. Of the 7 remaining players in the top 25, 2 of them are catchers (though both look like they could be very good catchers). Vargas is the sole 1B. Walker is a RF. The remaining prospects are 3B/OF types. Sano certainly looks like a force at 3B for some time, so this isn't necessarily an area that needs to be addressed quickly, but the team could definitely use some help with high ceiling corner bats. The good news is that those tend to be the easiest to aquire in free agency or even via trade. As well, several of the CF/MI prospects could easily transition in that direction should their bat play up but their position is blocked. Plenty of teams would also trade a good hitting LF/RF guy for some solid pitching, as pitching is always in high demand. I suspect this offseason, Ryan may attempt to trade off some of the AAA pitching depth for a blocked corner OF in another system.

Overall, however, it's a very strong system. With superstar hitting prospects in Sano and Buxton coupled with some very good hitters in Dozier and Mauer, the team should be able to score some runs. The development of guys like Santana, Vargas, Pinto, and Arcia is likely going to be the determining factor of how the offense fits in the next wave. If these guys progress well (and there's good reason to think they can), the MLB team in the later part of this decade will be stacked top to bottom with above average players. A return to meaningful fall baseball is very likely.

  • Thegrin likes this



I am almost done with my top 50, so good timing. You and I are really close through 14.

I like the Garver inclusion but I think there needs to be some room at the bottom for Stuart Turner.

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diehardtwinsfan
Aug 07 2014 01:49 PM

I am almost done with my top 50, so good timing. You and I are really close through 14.

 

I'd say the drop off after about 15 in my opinion is pretty noticable...10-15 would be in most teams' top 10 lists.But yeah, I think most lists would be pretty similar through 14. 

Thanks for putting together this list.  I enjoy these whenever someone takes the time to do it.

 

A few comments:

 

1) Even with your criteria of using performance over tools I would add Felix Jorge and Stuart Turner to your list. Jorge just has too much upside even if he is very, very young and quite a ways off from surfacing with the big club.  Turner might be the best defensive catcher in the organization.

 

2) Agree completely with Rosario.  He will most likely be the best minor league trade chip we have and that we would be willing to give up. He seems to be blocked by other prospects and players we currently have on the roster. I would definitely wait to trade him until he starts putting it all together (which I think he will).  His value should only increase.

 

3) I think Polanco and Sano will have a ETA before 2016.  A lot of that depends on whether Sano proves healthy over the winter.  He'll probably start out in AA or AAA next season and arrive mid-season.  

Based on their injury and recovery stats, Sano and Buxton should automatically be dropped significantly.

Something is wrong with Rosario and he should not be on this list, based on this years stats.

Where is Brett Lee ?

Why isn't James Beresford and Deibinson Romero included ?:)

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diehardtwinsfan
Aug 07 2014 03:34 PM

Thanks for putting together this list.  I enjoy these whenever someone takes the time to do it.
 
A few comments:
 
1) Even with your criteria of using performance over tools I would add Felix Jorge and Stuart Turner to your list. Jorge just has too much upside even if he is very, very young and quite a ways off from surfacing with the big club.  Turner might be the best defensive catcher in the organization.
 
2) Agree completely with Rosario.  He will most likely be the best minor league trade chip we have and that we would be willing to give up. He seems to be blocked by other prospects and players we currently have on the roster. I would definitely wait to trade him until he starts putting it all together (which I think he will).  His value should only increase.
 
3) I think Polanco and Sano will have a ETA before 2016.  A lot of that depends on whether Sano proves healthy over the winter.  He'll probably start out in AA or AAA next season and arrive mid-season.


I don't think performance should be placed over tools, I just think it plays a role, especially for guys who have succeeded in the high minors.

Brett Lee isn't striking out 5k/9 IP right now in a pitchers league. He is going to be one of those pitchers that walks a very fine line between pitching well and utterly imploding. I probably should have given him an HM, but I'd like to see him replicate that at AA before I get excited. That was my biggest reason for excluding him. He's also 23, so not exactly young for A+ ball.

Good list... I hope lots of people will share their lists here in the Blogs for people to discuss.

Based on their injury and recovery stats, Sano and Buxton should automatically be dropped significantly.

Something is wrong with Rosario and he should not be on this list, based on this years stats.

Where is Brett Lee ?

Why isn't James Beresford and Deibinson Romero included ?:)

 

 

 

Leave Beresford, Romero and Rosario exposed to Rule 5 and see who gets claimed.

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Paul Pleiss
Aug 08 2014 12:20 AM

I don't like Darnell as much as you do, and I think Harrison is a few spots too far down the list, but lots of good stuff here.

 

Hopefully the guys in the top 10 can begin blossoming at the MLB level. I know many will washout and never reach their potential, but man, there's a lot fo talent there.

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diehardtwinsfan
Aug 08 2014 04:42 AM

The nice thing about the guys in the top 10 is that most are doing what they are doing in the higher minors.There's a lot less chance of a flameout (though it's there). 

Hopefully the guys in the top 10 can begin blossoming at the MLB level. I know many will washout and never reach their potential, but man, there's a lot fo talent there.

 

There's strength in numbers.  Even if some washout it's hard to believe ALL of them will.

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SgtSchmidt11
Aug 09 2014 09:27 AM

Based on their injury and recovery stats, Sano and Buxton should automatically be dropped significantly.
Something is wrong with Rosario and he should not be on this list, based on this years stats.
Where is Brett Lee ?
Why isn't James Beresford and Deibinson Romero included ?:)

You want to exclude Buxton? He's still a top 3 prospect in all of baseball!