From The Fantasy Oracle 2016 MLB Draft Guide Is Here! 

Oracle Report: 2014 Prospect Hitter Review

Ray Flowers review the Fantasy Alarm 2014 rookie prospect preview piece by taking a look at the hitters.

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Back in the preseason we released the 2014 Fantasy Alarm Baseball Draft Guide to rave reviews. There were 200 pages of analysis and insight. Most of it was done by yours truly, so of course it was great (I'm such an egomaniac). One of the best pieces in the Guide was by Howard Bender. He wrote an excellent preview of the top prospects in baseball for the 2014 season. I thought I would review the hitters on that list as we hit the All-Star break. To this point of the 2014 season have the young hitters come through as hoped for? 

*NOTE: At the end of this article I will reproduce the excellent preview written by Mr. Bender. This article will only contain the hitters he reviewed. To see the pitchers clink on the link to Oracle Report: 2014 Prospect Pitcher Review.

The ETA's listed where Howard's preseason expectations. 

Jose Abreu, 1B, White Sox (ETA: 2014)
Has exceeded even the wildest of expectations. Abreu is first in homers with 29 and he's third in the majors with 73 RBIs... and he missed 15 days on the DL. He hits the break with a 9-game hitting streak that has pushed his average up to .292. Nearly impossible to think he keeps up that pace. Also he has 13 non-intentional walks this season and his 0.27 BB/K ratio is terrible. Only 34 percent of his batted balls are fly balls and that's a league average number. When his 34.9 percent HR/F rate regresses, and it will, his homer pace will slow, but he's been fantastic thus far.

Javier Baez, SS, Cubs (ETA:2015)
He started slowly this season but his bat is elite. In 84 games at Triple-A he's hit a mere .240 but socked 14 long balls, hit 19 doubles, has driven in 55 runners and scored 47 times. For good measure he's also stolen 15 bases. Should be an all-star with the bat for years. The only question is what position will he play when he arrives in the big leagues? A shortstop by trade, it seems likely that he will play second, though short, third base and even the outfield have been discussed given that the Cubs currently have three elite talents at shortstop in the organization after the trade with the Athletics to add Addison Russell (the other is obviously Starlin Castro).

Xander Bogaerts, SS, Red Sox (ETA: 2014)
Started out on fire with an excellent April/May during which time he hit .304 with three homers, 27 runs scored an a .397 OBP over 224 plate appearances. Since then he's looked, well, like a rookie. In 143 plate appearances since his slash line is pathetic (.134/.175/.216) and there have been not so quite whispers from some to send him back down the minors. A perfect example of why it's not always the dumbest thing to remain cautious with young players. His future is still bright, a month an a half of work doesn't change that, but that doesn't mean he's going to be a fantasy force at any point the rest of the way this year. 

Byron Buxton, OF, Twins (ETA: 2015)
He's still regarded by many as the best prospect in baseball, but his first half of 2014 has been a washout due to a wrist issue as he's only appeared in nine games. He might get a cup of coffee in September, but unless he brings it big time in the second half this season he might be forced to continue to hone his craft in the minors at the start of next season given that he's never played a game above High-A ball. 

Nick Castellanos, 3B, Tigers (ETA: 2014)
Through 302 at-bats he's hitting .262 with a .307 OBP and .394 SLG. Nothing to see here. He's also gone deep six times with 34 RBIs. A traditionally blah first season. Did you buy the hype and roster him to be your starting third baseman in a mixed league? I know some of you did. I forgive you for not admitting it. 

Delino DeShields, Jr., 2B, Astros (ETA: 2016)
Like his father, he's gonna slap the ball and run really fast. DeShields missed time earlier this year with a non-displaced fracture of his right cheekbone, but he's back to playing now. In 68 games at Double-A ball he's hit five homers, batted .242 and scored 48 times. The big number though is the 35 steals. Look at his steals totals by the way: 101 in 2012, 59 in 2013 and the 35 thus far. Strikes out out too much and may never develop much pop, but he'll certainly steal bases. 

Wilmer Flores, 2B, Mets (ETA: 2014)
He has the bat for the big leagues, but there's still little to no clarity as to which glove he should be wearing. Truthfully, there isn't a position on the field in which he excels, and he may never be more than adequate at best defensively. In 25 games with the Mets he's hit .225 with a homer this season though he's performed stupendously at Triple-A hitting .326 with 12 homers and 53 RBIs in a mere 47 games. 

Alexander Guerrero, 2B, Dodgers (ETA: 2014)
Was supposed to start at second base for the Dodgers this season. Luckily for Dee Gordon owners that didn't happen. Sent down to gain familiarity with North America, the Cuban born infield has raked at Triple-A, and that is underselling things. In 33 games Guerrero has hit .376 with a 1.152 OPS, 10 homers and 29 RBIs. The only thing that has stopped Alexander is teammate Miguel Olivo who bit part of his ear off in a dugout altercation. Seriously. Guerrero will be up late in the year, but with Gordon at second and Hanley Ramirez at shortstop the Dodgers don't have a spot for Alexander right now. 

Billy Hamilton, OF, Reds (ETA: 2014)
Better than I thought he would be by about 4.7 miles. Hamilton is hitting .285 with a .319 OBP through 90 games. I'm still willing to bet he struggles to hit .270, and his current OBP is already below the league average. His five homers and 38 RBIs are numbers I expected for the whole seasons, not 90 games, so tip of the cap there. His barely 72 percent success rate on the bases simply isn't very good. The 38 steals are terrific, but he needs to clean up that part of his game. 

Rougned Odor, 2B, Rangers (ETA: 2015)
When Jurickson Profar hurt himself the Rangers turned to the barely 20 year old Odor in a rather shocking move. He's acquitted himself well batting .260 over 53 games. But he's so young and raw it's not a surprise that he's not really doing anything of note. See his .296 OBP, .391 SLG, three homers, two steals, 18 RBIS and 17 runs scored. A decent start to his career but he's a fantasy nobody right now. 

Joc Pederson, OF, Dodgers (ETA: 2015)
Why won't the Dodgers call him up? I literally get that question about 15 times a week from folks. The point is there is no place for him in the Dodgers' outfield that already has four options to choose from (Kemp, Ethier, Puig & Crawford). Unless one is dealt or injured, there's no spot for Pederson. Too bad too since there's simply nothing more he can do in the minor leagues to prove he is ready to take on big league pitching. Pederson has hit .324-17-43-61 with a 1.017 OPS over 79 games. Toss in 20 steals and you have a player performing at an elite level. 

Gregory Polanco, OF, Pirates (ETA: 2014)
The start to his big league career really couldn't have gone any better. Through 32 games Gregory has hit .260 with a .352 OBP, 14 RBIs, 23 runs scored and six steals. At the same time he's only hit three homers, has struck out 29 times and has a mere .346 SLG. A foundational building block, you should note that other than his runs scored and steal marks that nothing stands out at this point. The game just isn't that easy.

Eddie Rosario, 2B, Twins (ETA: 2015)
With Brian Dozier trying to join the 30/30 club this year Rosario is going to have to think about changing positions (outfield would be the fall back option). He appeared in eight games at High-A ball before moving on to Double-A where he's appeared on the field 35 times. He's hit three homers, stolen three bases and scored 26 times. He started the year late after serving a 50 game suspension for recreational drug use.

Addison Russell, SS, Cubs (ETA: 2015)
Traded to the Cubs in the Jeff Samardzija deal, Russell is a future all-star. In 19 games at Double-A he's only hit one homer with four steals, but you can't judge him on that. He's been dealing with an ankle issue for a good deal of the season so he deserves a pass. Widely regarded as one of the top-20 prospects in baseball, some experts have him inside the top-10. 

Miguel Sano, 3B, Twins (ETA: 2014/15)
He has as much raw power as anyone in baseball, and an easy comparable can be made to the game of Pedro Alvarez. Unfortunately Sano's season is over as he was forced to undergo Tommy John surgery without playing a single game this season. Only has 67 games above A-Ball, so he won't be breaking camp with the Twins at the start of next season. 

Marcus Semien, 2B/3B, White Sox (ETA: 2014)
Got a chance to play when Gordon Beckham was hurt. Looked great for a while until the pitcher caught up. In 43 games he hit .218 with a .615 OPS though he did drive in 18 and scored 22 times. In 39 games on the farm he's hit .236 with six homers and 30 RBIs. Will likely be up at some point in the second half, perhaps to fill a super-sub role. 

Jonathan Singleton, 1B, Astros (ETA: 2014)
His arrival was a bit earlier than expected. He's brought the power with six homers and 21 RBIs in 38 games. He's also struck out a whopping 57 times and hit .184. Some seem surprised at this. Why are you surprised? Singleton has 30 homer power, no one doubts that fact, but the guy can be pitched too and has a long way to go as a hitter. Signed that long-term extension which likely gained him a long leash. 

George Springer, OF, Astros (ETA: 2014)
Called up a month earlier than expected. A near 40/40 performer in 2013, Springer has stolen only five bases in 76 games with the Astros (perhaps a groin injury had something to do with that). That's been disappointing. He has powered 19 long balls with 50 RBIs and 44 runs scored, and that's as productive as anyone could have ever hoped for him to be. Unfortunately he's also hit .233 as he's already struck out 112 times. Albert Pujols has never struck out 95 times in a season. That shocking lack of an ability to make consistent contact should help to keep expectations in check with Springer, for now. 

Oscar Taveras, OF, Cardinals (ETA: 2014)
A generational talent, Taveras has hit .197 with a homer an a .501 OP through 23 games with the Cardinals. He's already been demoted once for failing to hit, and unless he gets going here in the next week or two he could yet again find himself back at Triple-A. Eventually he'll be an all-star but right now he's just not hitting big league pitching. Exhibit 3,976 of why depending on rookies, even elite prospects, is so risky.

Ronald Torreyes, 2B, Astros  (ETA: 2016)
Who knows if that's how you spell his last name (it is correct). Yet another Astros prospect of note. In 83 games at Triple-A he hasn't disappointed hitting .289 with 42 runs scored. At the same time he's only stolen five base and hit just two homers. He does possesses great plate discipline though with a BB/K ratio of 1.02 over his last 186 games. 

Kolten Wong, 2B, Cardinals (ETA: 2014)
An up and down 2014 filled with high's, low's and injury. Wong hit the break on fire with a crazy total of five homers over his last eight games. That recent hot stretch has propelled him to a line of .242-6-24-22-12 over 53 games. He's not really a 30 steal guy, or a 20 homer bat, but that doesn't mean he doesn't have a chance to be one of the better power/speed second sackers in the game. Only has 23 strikeouts in 53 games as he's been putting the bat on the ball with regularity. 

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Prospecting the Prospects
By Howard Bender

*** Remember, what follow was part of the 2014 FantasyAlarm Draft Guide. This is the kind of analysis you missed out on if you didn't get a copy of The Guide.

As children, there was nothing more exciting than a brand new toy. It didn’t matter if it was a new Tonka truck, a new bicycle, or a new Superman action figure, brand new toys were the best. Well, those of us who play fantasy baseball haven’t outgrown that feeling one bit. Instead of our affection being a new Lego set, it’s fantasy baseball rookies. To pinpoint exactly when this obsession became more mainstream is difficult, but one can’t help but remember the overwhelming joy experienced by the guy who landed Albert Pujols back in 2001. The quest to find the next big thing often becomes more of a distraction than anything else, but for the sake of feeding your insane compulsion to put rookies with upside ahead of proven major league talent, here’s a look at the top-40 rookies for 2014.

Jose Abreu, 1B, White Sox – Take your pick of any web site that offers biographical and statistical information about the big, Cuban slugger and it reads like he is some sort of mythical being who has graced the Earth just to play the game of baseball. From league MVPs to home run records to slugging percentages hovering somewhere in the stratosphere, the 27 year old first baseman is a modern-day legend in Cuba. His 2010-11 season was his masterpiece when he slashed .453/.597/.986 with 79 runs, 93 RBI and 33 home runs in only 66 games. Truly legendary. He now takes his game to the South Side of Chicago where expectations seem to include everything but the shattering of stadium lights at The Cell. But while the talent is obviously there, the playing time might not be so easy to come by with both Adam Dunn and Paul Konerko still in uniform. The idea of sending Dunn out to a corner outfield spot to make room is highly unlikely which means the three sluggers will have to share time at first base and the DH spot. That could mean that none of them will see a full season's worth of at-bats which obviously devalues Abreu from a fantasy standpoint. Things could certainly change as we head closer to the season, but it's definitely something to keep in mind if he's on your target list come draft day. 
ETA: 2014

Javier Baez, SS, Cubs – He’s unquestionably one of the premier prospects in the Cubs' organization right now and looked incredibly strong after banging 37 home runs and stealing 20 bases over 577 plate appearances between High-A and Double-A last season. The depressingly high strikeout total could hamper his advancement, but if he can just rein in that plate discipline just a tad, the Cubs will look to move him up. He’ll probably open 2014 in Triple-A, and another year in the minors should certainly help him with his work at the plate. It will also give the Cubs time to evaluate and make a decision on Starlin Castro, who is blocking the way, but could also be moved given his attitude issues. 
ETA: 2015

Xander Bogaerts, SS, Red Sox – You can’t really argue against the overall talent level as Bogaerts should be a staple in the Red Sox infield for some time. He’s got decent power for a middle infielder but he doesn’t offer much speed and he tends to strike out a little more often than we’d like. High contact rates have helped keep his average above .300 in the minors, but his power has diminished with each advancement to a new level. If he can maintain those contact rates in the big leagues then he should be able to post a strong average and find his way to 10-15 home runs, but keep those offensive expectations in check early on.
ETA: 2014

Byron Buxton, OF, Twins – Is there any prospect getting as much hype as Buxton is these days? Constant comparisons to Mike Trout have got fantasy owners freaking out, especially after Buxton hit .334/.424/.520 with 12 home runs and 55 stolen bases between Low-A and High-A last year, his age 19 season. What was even more impressive was his plate discipline as he posted a combined 18-percent strikeout rate with a 13-percent walks rate. Defensively, he is more than sound as his speed allows him to cover a ridiculous amount of ground out in center field. He’ll open the season in Double-A, but how long the Twins keep him there will depend on how well he continues to hit. Given the fact that the Twins aren’t known for fast-tracking prospects...
ETA: 2015

Nick Castellanos, 3B, Tigers – The trade of Prince Fielder helped open up the hot corner for Castellanos to take over and he should walk out of spring training with the job in-hand. He put together an outstanding season at Triple-A last year, batting .276 with 18 home runs, but it was the improved plate discipline numbers that gave reassurance that his season wasn’t such a fluke. He may not sustain that level of power, though, so temper your expectations. Last season’s cup of coffee was limited to just 18 plate appearances, mostly against southpaws, so despite his .278 average over a six-game span he still has more to prove. That, however, can be done while he continues to learn on the job. Don’t be alarmed if he struggles a bit in the beginning as he should put it all together sooner than later. 
ETA: 2014

Delino DeShields, Jr., 2B, Astros – For starters, he’s faster than his dad. After swiping 101 bases in 2012, DeShields spent much of 2013 working on other aspects of his game. He still managed to swipe 51 bags, but what was more impressive was the improved plate discipline and the .402 on-base percentage. He followed it up with a .275/.383/.362 slash line with eight steals over 22 games in the Arizona Fall League and is most definitely headed for Double-A duty this season. Defensively, he may be better suited for the outfield which actually happened in the AFL, so further development in the minors is definitely in need. If he can continue to hit the way he has and improves in the field, then he should be up in the bigs soon enough. 
ETA: 2016

Wilmer Flores, 2B, Mets – After posting a .321/.357/.531 slash line with 15 home runs over 463 plate appearances at Triple-A, Flores got himself a call-up late in the year. Unfortunately, he didn’t look nearly as strong batting just .211 with one home run over 101 trips to the plate. His biggest problem seemed to be his plate discipline and pitch recognition, and he ended up posting a 22.8 percent strikeout rate after four years in the system with nary a mark higher than 13.8-percent. The Mets aren’t really in much of a rush to get him up again until later in the year as they continue with their overall rebuilding process. With David Wright locking down third, his best chance to make it sooner than later would constitute a move to the keystone.
ETA: 2014

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Alexander Guerrero, 2B, Dodgers – Another Cuban import, Guerrero signed a four year, $28 million deal and will likely end up the replacement for Mark Ellis over at the keystone if he can prove capable during spring training. He batted .290/.402/.576 in his last season in Cuba, made decent contact and seems to have strong plate discipline, walking more than he struck out during that season. It’s tough to project how he’ll fare against MLB competition, but if he can provide strong defense and a little bit of offensive punch, then he’s already an upgrade from what they had last year.
ETA: 2014

Billy Hamilton, SS, Reds – Is there anything left to say that hasn’t been said already? We get it. The guy is fast. Crazy fast. We’re talking 402 stolen bases over five minor league levels in five years only to be capped off with another 13 (in 14 attempts) during a 2013 13-game cup of coffee in the majors fast. Blink and you miss him. He’s already on second… no, make that third. But all that speed has a costly price on draft day so get ready to pay for it even though he still, technically, doesn’t have a big league job just yet. A .308 OBP at Triple-A isn’t impressing anyone so he’s going to have to show a little more than his ability to run this spring if he wants to start out with the big club.
ETA: 2014

Rougned Odor, 2B, Rangers – He’ll have only just turned 20 years old by the time the 2014 season gets underway, so his performance last season – .305 with five home runs and 27 stolen bases at High-A and a promotion to Double-A in which he hit .306 with six home runs and five stolen bases – is extremely impressive. His defensive skills are also rock solid and if it wasn’t for the presence of Jurickson Profar and Elvis Andrus, the Rangers may have considered fast-tracking him. That being said, a potential trade could help expedite things.
With a trade, ETA: 2015; without a trade, ETA: 2016

Joc Pederson, OF, Dodgers – The 21 year old enjoyed his first full season at the Double-A level in 2013 and entrenched himself as the top position prospect inside the organization. Over 519 plate appearances, he batted .278 with 22 home runs and 31 stolen bases, flashing increases in both power and speed. While he did see an uptick in strikeouts, he also raised his walk rate which helped keep his OBP up as well. He’s expected to open the season at Triple-A, but even with a strong showing, the Dodgers crowded outfield and big league depth may keep him down for the full year. His best chance could come via trade.
ETA: 2015

Gregory Polanco, OF, Pirates – Polanco has shown excellent plate discipline, mid-level power and above-average speed as he’s made his way through the Pirates farm system, and considering the Buccos need for someone better and sturdier than Jose Tabata, Polanco could make his first big league appearance as early as June, once the Super-Two deadline has passed. His style of play has garnered plenty of attention within the Pirates system, but after being named both MVP and Rookie of the Year of the Dominican League this winter, thanks to a .331/.428/.494 slash line in 44 games, with five home runs and seven stolen bases, he’s getting even more attention than usual. While the Pirates are all about saving money, a really strong spring could actually push him into the starting right field job right out of spring training.
ETA: 2014

Eddie Rosario, 2B, Twins – One of the Twins' best prospects, Rosario hit .329/.377/.527 in 52 games at High-A Fort Myers and then .284/.330/.412 in 70 games at Double-A New Britain last season. He stood a very strong chance at opening the 2014 season at Triple-A with a potential call-up looming, but a 50-game suspension handed down in early January has pushed his timetable back at least a year. It wasn’t PEDs use, but this is a second offense for a drug of abuse. He’ll begin serving once the season opens and the club will then decide at which level to start him off.
ETA: 2015

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Addison Russell, SS, Athletics – The 11th overall pick in the 2012 draft, Russell put together an outstanding first season at High-A Stockton in 2013 batting .275 with 17 home runs and 21 stolen bases over 504 plate appearances. He looked so good that the club bumped him up to Triple-A for the end of the season just to get a quick taste (he only appeared in three games for the River Cats). Given the fact that he plays a premium position (and plays it well), the A’s will likely fast-track him a little bit if he can show some improvement with the strikeouts. Whiffing 23 percent of the time at the Single-A level just isn’t going to cut it, so expect them to keep a close eye on him when he opens the 2014 season at Double-A. From there, how quickly he develops is all up to him.
ETA: 2015

Miguel Sano, 3B, Twins –Even just a cursory glance at his minor league totals makes you stop and stare as his power numbers have been outstanding at every stop between rookie ball and Double-A. Unfortunately, the big power comes with big strikeouts. Still, his bat is good enough to actually jump straight from Double-A if he has a good spring. Of course, there are currently concerns as he injured his elbow playing winter ball and there are now whispers of Tommy John surgery. Several within the organization don’t believe surgery will be necessary, but this injury is definitely one to monitor throughout the spring.
If healthy, ETA: 2014; if not, ETA: 2015

Marcus Semien, 2B/3B, White Sox – The 23 year old has the makings of being a good, solid infielder, though his tools aren’t anything to get overly-excited about. He’s shown that he can hit for average, has a little bit of pop and above-average speed and defensively, he’s both strong and versatile. He opened 2013 in Double-A and by the end of the season, he was starting in the White Sox lineup, posting a .261 average with two home runs and two stolen bases over 71 plate appearances.  Though he’s a natural shortstop, he can play both second and third which are likely to be his best avenues to a major league gig, with supplanting Gordon Beckham as the more likely scenario. A lot will hinge on how he performs this spring, but the door is certainly open for him to potentially make an impact at some point this season.
ETA: 2014

Jonathan Singleton, 1B, Astros – He was developing quite nicely and had posted a .284/.396/.497 slash line with 21 home runs over 555 plate appearances at Double-A, but a 50-game suspension for marijuana use imposed last season pushing him back and preventing him from opening the 2013 season at Triple-A and potentially making his big league debut last September. Instead, he went back to Low-A to start and had to work himself back up the ladder. His time at Triple-A wasn’t too exciting as he batted just .220 with six home runs over 294 plate appearances and never got a call-up, but once the season ended he was added to the 40-man roster, a clear indication that the Astros have him in their immediate plans. Names like Brett Wallace and Jesus Guzman stand in his way right now, so if he makes a bigger impact in Triple-A this year, he could be a mid to late season call-up. At worst, he’s up for September.
ETA: 2014

George Springer, OF, Astros – A candidate for AL ROY honors as he’s cruised through the minor league ranks as one of the premier power/speed threats over the last three seasons culminating with 37 home runs and 45 stolen bases last year between Double and Triple-A. Strikeout appear to be his Achilles heel, but many seem willing to overlook that given the outstanding walk and contact rates. The Astros don’t exactly have anyone tearing it up from either corner outfield spot, so there should be room for him, if not to open the year then possibly sometime in May or June. Fixing the plate discipline would make him even more enticing, but he’s going to be highly-coveted as is.
ETA: 2014 

Oscar Taveras, OF, Cardinals – He should have made his first big league appearance last season but an ankle injury limited him to just 47 games all year and there was never really an opportunity to give him a look at the big league level. This year could be different, depending on how he hits during the spring in comparison to Matt Adams and even Allen Craig. He doesn’t draw much in the way of walks, but Oscar is disciplined enough to not strike out all the time and seems to make consistently strong contact which helps keep his OBP at more than just a respectable level. If his opportunity doesn’t come to open the year, look for him to make his debut during mid-season. 
ETA:  2014

Ronald Torreyes, 2B, Astros – While he’s flashed a little bit of speed from time to time, Torreyes is more inclined to make his way to the majors because of his glove rather than his bat. That’s not to say that he can’t contribute, because he certainly can thanks to strong plate discipline and a high contact rate. He’s advanced through the minor leagues at a steady rate and could end up being a decent utility man to start with the potential of earning a full-time role. He’s only 21 years old so there’s still time for him to develop as he does have solid raw skills.
ETA: 2016 

Kolten Wong, 2B, Cardinals – Though the Cardinals signed veteran Mark Ellis during the offseason, the second base job apparently belongs to Wong heading into the season. He’s been widely considered one of, if not the, top prospects at the position and has shown both strong contact rates and plate discipline throughout his time in the minors. Last season, he batted .303 with 10 home runs and 20 stolen bases over just 463 plate appearances for Triple-A Memphis, and while his short stint in the majors wasn’t exactly the thing upon which fantasy dreams are built, the Cardinals are happy with his development.
ETA: 2014


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