We took a look yesterday at five young players ($) who could jump onto the 2014 Top 100 Prospects list, but today we asked a number of Baseball America writers and editors to pick one player they are eyeing as a potential Top 100 Prospect for 2014.
J.J. Cooper: Royals righthander Miguel Almonte didn’t receive one Top 150 vote for this year’s Top 100 Prospects list and he shouldn’t have. As a bargain signing out of the Dominican in 2010 who has a grand total of 27 innings in the U.S., nothing in Almonte’s track record says Top 100 Prospect yet. But a year from now, that may have changed. Almonte has a very good three-pitch mix with a plus fastball, average changeup and developing breaking ball. In an organization that has rightfully been criticized for its struggles to develop starting pitchers, Almonte is a potential success story. He’s cleaned up his delivery and improved his stuff significantly since signing. If he has success in low Class A this year, he could climb into next year’s Top 100.
Matt Eddy: He’ll need to rein in the strikeouts, but the Phillies’ Tommy Joseph offers a rare combination of power, athleticism and arm strength at catcher. The 21-year-old mashed 11 homers at the Double-A level last season, while gunning down 40 percent of basestealers and getting traded for Hunter Pence.
Conor Glassey: Cubs first baseman Dan Vogelbach is only 20 years old, but he already has a long track record of turning doubters into believers. They doubt him by discounting his hefty, 6-foot, 260-pound frame and then believe in him after seeing him launch balls into the lights. Excluding the Latin summer leagues, just 15 players last year with 200 or more plate appearances had an OPS greater than 1.000. Only three of those players were younger than Vogelbach—Addison Russell (who ranked 48 on the list), David Dahl (53) and Joey Gallo, who just missed. But Vogelbach isn’t just a slugger—he has an excellent feel for hitting and working the count and posted a .322 batting average in 2012 between the Rookie-level Arizona League and short-season Boise. He’ll need to continue to improve his defense, but Vogelbach has one of the best all-around bats in the minor leagues.
Will Lingo: We had a lot of interesting power arms hovering around the back of the list, and it’s always hard to figure out where to rank guys you expect to be relievers. I think two of these types of players bear watching, not necessarily for next year’s Top 100 but for this year’s major league bullpens: the Rays’ Alex Colome and the Mariners’ Carter Capps. Colome has a track record of missing bats but probably not the command or repertoire to start long-term. He may start the season in the Triple-A Durham rotation, but I think he’ll blossom in the Tampa Bay bullpen. Capps, on the other hand, has been viewed as a reliever from the time Seattle drafted him in 2011 and has already pitched in the big leagues. His top-of-the-scouting-scale fastball gives him an immediate role and makes him future closer material.
John Manuel: To borrow a phrase from our College Top 25 rankings, Twins center fielder/second baseman Eddie Rosario may have suffered from some poll mechanics. I put 55/High grades on both Rosario and J.O. Berrios but ranked Berrios higher due to his greater importance to the Twins as a potential starting pitcher, and due in part to uncertainty over Rosario’s future position. He may not stick at second base and might be a tweener as an outfielder—not the defense for center, not enough power for a corner. But I believe in the bat ultimately and think Rosario could wind up as a Shin-Soo Choo, Nick Markakis or David Murphy type, a corner outfielder who hits for high average, hits a lot of doubles, draws walks and is an above-average offensive player despite average home run power.
Nathan Rode: Also a quarterback star in high school, Astros third baseman Rio Ruiz‘s football and baseball seasons were cut short in his senior year. He hyperextended his knee in the fall and then needed a blood clot removed from his neck in the spring. Had he been healthy, Ruiz projected as a potential first-round pick, but fell to the fourth round where he signed for $1.85 million. He moved to third base as a pro where he has good hands and plus arm strength—he touched the mid 90s off the mound in high school. He has tremendous strength in his wrist and hands, leading to a good feel for hitting and plus raw power. Like a lot of high school players, he needs polish, but he has the ability to be an average hitter with at least average power in games.
Jim Shonerd: Dodgers outfielder Joc Pederson has the swing and polished approach of a high-average hitter, and his tools should be solid all around. He finished last season hitting .313/.396/.516 and hit 16 homers in the second half in high Class A after skipping a level. He should find his way into next year’s Top 100 if he can carry that momentum into Double-A this season.