Prospect Watch: Top 10 outfielders
Cards' Taveras, Rays' Myers, Reds' Hamilton emerging as potential superstars
MLB.com's 2013 Top 100 Prospects list will be unveiled on Tuesday on MLB.com and during a one-hour show on MLB Network that will air at 9 p.m. ET. Leading up to that, MLB.com takes a look at baseball's Top 10 prospects at each position.
Talk about setting the bar high. Last year's Top 10 outfielders list was led by the two players who ended up as the Rookies of the Year. Bryce Harper of the Nationals and Mike Trout of the Angels obviously have graduated, but this year's Top 10 outfielders list has a ton of future rookie-award candidates on it. And there are some new names, with only three outfielders returning from 2012.
1. Oscar Taveras, Cardinals: The Cardinals' signing of Taveras out of the Dominican Republic in 2008 for a mere $145,000 could go down as one the biggest bargains in recent memory. Perhaps the best pure hitter in the Minors, Taveras handled a double jump to Double-A last season by going to the Futures Game and earning Texas League Player of the Year honors. Taveras has done nothing but hit for plenty of average, and the power continues to come, along with improved plate discipline. He has everything to be an All-Star-caliber outfielder who hits in the middle of a big league lineup for years.
2. Wil Myers, Rays: Myers was initially drafted as a catcher by Kansas City in the third round in 2009, and the Royals signed him to an over-slot deal to keep him from attending South Carolina. He was moved to the outfield after a year behind the plate, but 2011 was more or less a bust. He bounced back in a huge way last season, though, going to the Futures Game and finishing second in the Minors in home runs before being traded to Tampa Bay this past offseason in the James Shields deal. His offense, replete with plus bat speed and outstanding on-base skills, is big league ready. He's played a lot of center field, but he should put up the kind of numbers typically expected of a top-flight corner outfielder.
3. Billy Hamilton, Reds: Hamilton was a shortstop until last fall, when he made the long-expected move to center field in the Arizona Fall League. The 2009 second-round pick was settling in nicely to his new environment, with his plus-plus speed allowing him to outrun any mistakes as he learned how to read the ball off the bat and get better jumps. That outstanding speed makes him perhaps the most exciting player at any level, and the one who broke the professional single-season stolen-base record last season with 155. He'll become a better and better leadoff hitter as he continues to hone his on-base skills.
4. Christian Yelich, Marlins: When the Marlins drafted Yelich No. 23 overall in 2010, they thought they were getting one of the purest high school hitters among that year's draftees. A participant in both the Futures Game and the Arizona Fall League Rising Stars Game in 2012, Yelich hasn't disappointed. The Southern California product, a left-handed hitter, has an advanced approach at the plate, with a skill set that could lead to batting titles. The power has started to show up, too, and he has the speed to be a legitimate base-stealing threat as well as a solid center fielder.
5. Byron Buxton, Twins: The Twins were thrilled when the Astros didn't take Buxton No. 1 overall last year, allowing them to draft the potential five-tool threat with the second pick. The Georgia high school product has the kind of speed that can be a game changer on the basepaths and in center field. Buxton has a great line-drive stroke with much more power to grow into as he matures. All he needs is time and experience. The sky might be the limit.
6. Nick Castellanos, Tigers: When the Tigers gave Castellanos a record bonus for a sandwich pick in 2010, they believed he had first-round talent. He hasn't disappointed, reaching Double-A at age 20 and winning the Futures Game MVP Award. A terrific pure hitter, he's the type of player who could compete for batting titles one day, and the power will continue to come as he matures. A shortstop in high school, Castellanos initially moved to third, then made a smooth transition to the outfield. Wherever he plays, his bat should keep him in the big leagues for a long time.
7. Bubba Starling, Royals: Kansas City went over-slot to sign Starling, the No. 5 overall pick in 2011 who had a a scholarship offer to play quarterback at the University of Nebraska. Starling has every tool in the toolbox and simply needs to get out there and play to sharpen them. There is no doubt about his speed on both sides of the ball, his strong arm and his tremendous raw power. There has been a good amount of swing-and-miss to his game, but there is confidence that he'll be a decent all-around hitter -- even if there are high strikeout totals -- when all is said and done.
top 10 outfield prospects
|1||Bryce Harper, WAS||1||Mike Trout, LAA|
|2||Mike Trout, LAA||2||Bryce Harper, WAS|
|3||Bubba Starling, KC||3||Domonic Brown, PHI|
|4||Wil Myers, KC||4||Desmond Jennings, TB|
|5||Brett Jackson, CHC||5||Aaron Hicks, MIN|
|6||Christian Yelich, MIA||6||Brett Jackson, CHC|
|7||Starling Marte, PIT||7||Guillermo Pimentel, SEA|
|8||Gary Brown, SF||8||Reymond Fuentes, SD|
|9||Anthony Gose, TOR||9||Ben Revere, MIN|
|10||Jake Marisnick, TOR||10||Engel Beltre, TEX|
8. Jackie Bradley, Red Sox: Bradley picked a bad time –- his junior year at South Carolina -– to have a poor season with the bat. Adding injury to insult, he had wrist surgery, further hurting his stock. But it now looks as though the Red Sox reaped the benefits, getting a first-round talent in the sandwich round when they drafted Bradley with the 40th overall selection in 2011. Bradley was cured of whatever ailed him in 2012, reaching Double-A in his first full season and emerging as a Carolina League All-Star. Bradley hit for average, showed tremendous on-base skills and used excellent instincts to be a basestealing threat. He's an outstanding defensive center fielder with a plus arm, and he looks like a future everyday center fielder.
9. Albert Almora, Cubs: While Buxton might have had the most tools of any high school outfielder in the 2012 Draft, Almora wasn't far behind. Taken No. 6 overall, the Florida high school standout is a veteran of USA Baseball and the international stage several times over. He has the offensive skills to be an above-average hitter, and he can drive the ball to all fields. He's shown glimpses of power, but he should grow into that as he matures. His instincts and work ethic are off the charts, which should allow all of his tools to play up as he progresses.
10. Mason Williams, Yankees: The Yankees handed out seven figures to Williams, a fourth-round pick in 2010, to sign him away from a commitment to South Carolina. He still has a ways to go, but the 2012 South Atlantic League All-Star is starting to show that New York may have made a wise investment. A left-handed hitter, Williams has displayed a knack for making consistent contact and should continue to hit for average. More power should develop in the future. So should his basestealing ability, as his overall game improves through physical and emotional maturity. He can be the kind of impact player teams love to have patrolling center field in the big leagues.