Ask BA

As we’ve detailed several times, Stanford righthander Mark Appel turned down $3.8 million from the Pirates after they drafted him eighth overall last year. Though he has less leverage now because he’s in his final year of college eligibility and it’s hard to fathom that he’d hold out again and re-enter the 2014 draft, he’s putting himself in position to get more than $3.8 million this summer.

Appel, who entered the year as Baseball America’s top-rated prospect for the 2013 draftPremium, struck out a career-high 15 in seven innings while taking a tough 3-2 loss against Nevada-Las Vegas on Friday night. His stuff is as good as ever, and he’s dominating like scouts always have thought he should. He’s now 2-2, 1.20 with a 43-6 K-BB ratio and .160 opponent average in 30 innings.

Appel will be attractive to a team that wants a college pitcher who can arrive in a hurry—that’s just about any club—and also to anyone looking to spread their bonus pool money around. Because of his reduced leverage, it’s unlikely that he’ll command full pick value at the top of the draft. Could the Astros wind up drafting him No. 1 overall, just a year later than expected? We have three months to find out.

Who would you project to be in your 2014 top 10 prospects? With the likely graduations of six of the top seven prospects on BA’s 2013 Top 100 Prospects list, it seems like Marlins righthander Jose Fernandez and Red Sox shortstop Xander Bogaerts would be considered for the top spot.

Brendan Hart
New York

Rangers shortstop/second baseman Jurickson Profar (No. 1 on the Top 100), Orioles righthander Dylan Bundy (No. 2), Cardinals outfielder Oscar Taveras (No. 3), Rays outfielder Wil Myers (No. 4), Cardinals righty Shelby Miller (No. 6) and Pirates righthander Gerrit Cole (No. 7) all figure to graduate to the majors from the top of our Top 100, making way for a lot of change next year. Here’s my projected top 10 for 2014:

1. Jose Fernandez, rhp, Marlins

2. Xander Bogaerts, ss, Red Sox

3. Javier Baez, ss, Cubs

4. Christian Yelich, of, Marlins

5. Byron Buxton, of, Twins

6. Carlos Correa, ss, Astros

7. Miguel Sano, 3b, Twins

8. Taijuan Walker, rhp, Mariners

9. Kevin Gausman, rhp, Orioles

10. Kyle Zimmer, rhp, Royals

That list is slightly different than the order of my personal Top 50 Prospects list in the 2013 Prospect Handbook. That’s because our annual Top 100 list reflects the opinions of multiple BA editors and tends to skew toward players with dominant performances in the upper minors. While I had Buxton ahead of Bogaerts, Baez and Yelich and Correa in front of Yelich in the Handbook, I think the more experienced prospects are more likely than the first two picks in the 2012 draft to have monster seasons.

Elite prospects tend to race to the big leagues faster than expected, a la Manny Machado with the Orioles a year ago. So with that in mind, I’ll offer up five more possibility for the next year’s top 10: Nationals third baseman Anthony Rendon, Diamondbacks righthander Archie Bradley, Indians shortstop Francisco Lindor, Pirates righty Jameson Taillon and Tigers third baseman/outfielder Nick Castellanos. I don’t have any 2013 draftees making it, though Appel is the most likely candidate.

The Pirates have five players (righthanders Gerrit Cole, Jameson Taillon and Luis Heredia, outfielder Gregory Polanco, shortstop Alen Hanson) on the Top 100 Prospects list and outfielder Josh Bell just missed. Except for Cole, they almost certainly won’t lose their prospect status this year. Pittsburgh also has two of the first 14 draft picks this June plus multiple breakout candidates in their farm system. How many Top 100 Prospects will they have next year? Are there any teams in position to have more?

Corey Bunje Bower
Lewiston, N.Y.

I agree with most of Corey’s assessment. Outside of Cole, the Pirates’ other four Top 100 Prospects should make next year’s list, and Bell should too. (I ranked Bell 80th on my personal list this year.) I don’t see any obvious Top 100 breakout candidates in Pittsburgh’s system, though I’ll also admit that a year ago I didn’t see Polanco or Hanson coming.

Fifteen players from the 2012 draft made our 2013 Top 100, and this year’s crop is of similar quality. So if the Pirates do well with the Nos. 9 and 14 picks in June, they could have seven players on next year’s Top 100. To put that in perspective, three organizations tied for first place this spring with six Top 100 Prospects: the Cardinals, Marlins and Twins.

However, I see five other organizations who are better bets to have seven Top 100 Prospects next spring. Ranking them in order:

1. Astros. All five of their current Top 100 guys (Correa, first baseman/outfielder Jonathan Singleton, outfielder George Springer, righthander Lance McCullers Jr., second baseman Delino DeShields Jr.) should repeat. The No. 1 overall pick is a lock to make the list. They also have several other candidates in righties Jared Cosart and Mike Foltynewicz, outfielder Domingo Santana and perhaps third baseman Rio Ruiz.

2. Red Sox. Like Houston, Boston has four guys among the Top 50 who should be eligible next year (Bogaerts, outfielder Jackie Bradley, righthanders Matt Barnes and Allen Webster), another one near the end of the Top 100 (lefthander Henry Owens) and an early draft choice (No. 7 overall). Other possibilities include catcher Blake Swihart, third baseman Garin Cecchini, outfielder Bryce Brentz and shortstop Deven Marrero.

3. Marlins. Not only did Miami tie for the lead with six Top 100 Prospects this spring, but all of them (Fernandez, Yelich, lefthanders Andrew Heaney and Justin Nicolino, outfielders Jake Marisnick and Marcell Ozuna) should retain their prospect eligibility next spring. The Marlins don’t have as many breakout candidates as the Astros and Red Sox, though they do have catcher J.T. Realmuto and the No. 6 overall selection in June.

4. Cubs. They should get all four of their Top 100 guys (Baez, outfielders Albert Almora and Jorge Soler, righthander Arodys Vizcaino) back on the next list, righty Pierce Johnson and first baseman Dan Vogelbach could make the leap and the No. 2 overall pick also will come aboard.

5. Twins. They’ll lose a pair of current Top 100 Prospects (righthander Kyle Gibson, outfielder Aaron Hicks) to graduation but four others (Sano, Buxton, outfielder Oswaldo Arcia, righty Alex Meyer) should repeat. Righty J.O. Berrios and second baseman/outfielder Eddie Rosario have Top 100 upside, as will the No. 4 overall choice.

Who are the top five prospects expected to play in the low Class A South Atlantic League in 2013?

Josh Handler
Charleston, S.C.

Josh’s interest stems from the fact that he’ll be a summer intern with the Charleston RiverDogs. Here’s a preview of the two best prospects I project to make the Opening Day rosters for each team in the SAL:

Asheville (Rockies): OF David Dahl, RHP Eddie Butler

Augusta (Giants): RHP Martin Agosta, LHP Steven Okert

Charleston (Yankees): RHP Jose Campos, RHP Ty Hensley

Delmarva (Orioles): RHP Branden Kline, SS Adrian Marin

Greensboro (Marlins): 3B/2B Avery Romero, OF Austin Dean

Greenville (Red Sox): LHP Brian Johnson, SS Jose Vinicio

Hagerstown (Nationals): LHP Matt Purke, OF Estarlin Martinez

Hickory (Rangers): 3B Joey Gallo, OF Lewis Brinson

Kannapolis (White Sox): 1B Keon Barnum, RHP Chris Beck

Lakewood (Phillies): SS Roman Quinn, RHP Shane Watson

Lexington (Royals): OF Bubba Starling, SS Adalberto Mondesi

Rome (Braves): RHP Lucas Sims, RHP Mauricio Cabrera

Savannah (Mets): SS Gavin Cecchini, OF Brandon Nimmo

West Virginia (Pirates): RHP Luis Heredia, OF Josh Bell

As for the top five, I’ll give Starling a slight nod over Dahl for No. 1, followed by Heredia, Bell and then Quinn edging Mondesi for the final spot. While researching this question, the disparity in talent between the two low Class A leagues struck me. The MWL’s five best prospects (Buxton, Correa, Padres lefthander Max Fried, Almora, Soler) all could No. 1 in the SAL, and the MWL has an impressive second tier that includes McCullers, Reds righthander Robert Stephenson, Blue Jays righty Roberto Osuna, Dodgers shortstop Corey Seager, Jays outfielder D.J. Davis, Berrios, Indians shortstop Dorssys Paulino and Vogelbach.

" March 4 Ask BA