Some say the prospect roster is not as great as in the past two years. I totally agree. However, how often do we see players like Kris Bryant, Carlos Correa, and Francisco Lindor come along. We still have some very good prospects on the cusp, but not like we have seen the past two or three years.
Today I will share my thoughts on prospects on the verge of making the big leagues from the National League Central. I may miss a few, but it’s tough to get them all correct. Players with rookie eligibility and international free agents are included.
Dan Vogelbach-1B-age 23- Vogelbach is in a tough situation. He has Anthony Rizzo in front of him and a host of other young Cubs players that are capable of playing first base already on the roster. So, Vogelbach could be a big trade chip as a left-handed hitter with power. Then again, he’s a great insurance policy for the organization.
Jeimer Candelario-3B-age 22- The switch-hitting Candelario showed some skill at the plate in the Arizona Fall League. I see some room for growth in his defense, but he can help with the bat. Problem? He’s behind Kris Bryant and others right now. He too has excellent trade or organizational depth value. This could be a year too soon.
Albert Almora-CF-age 21- Almora is a talented, athletic guy who needs a chance to play agains quality pitching every day. Like every other Cubs prospect he is in an organization loaded with quality young players. But if given a chance, I think he will be a productive outfielder with hustle and a great feel for the game.
Billy McKinney-CF-age 21- Another in the long line of high draft picks that have a chance to succeed if given the chance to succeed. McKinney, like Candelario, may be a year away. But he brings good speed and good baseball instincts. He will have to get on base regularly to be successful. He has a future but maybe more in 2017.
Pierce Johnson-RHSP-age 24- Johnson is among the Cubs pitchers with a chance to help the rotation in an emergency this season. He may get a call if there is a hole in the starting pitching. He has a very good, complete and reliable repertoire.
Carl Edwards, Jr.-RHSP-age- He has shown an ability to get the opposition out with good command. Pitching to contact, Edwards, Jr. doesn’t get that many strikeouts, but he is reliable and could offer help at some point this year.
Andury Acevedo-RHP-age 25- Signed in the off season as a free agent, he can offer some organizational pitching depth.
Christian Villanueva-3B/1B-age 24- The right handed hitter smoked 20 home runs and drove in 95 last year. He also walked 39 times, showing some plate discipline.
He’s the type of guy that could be a real sleeper for some team’s future.
Jake Cave-OF -age 23- A Rule 5 left-handed hitter who came from the Yankees. The club will have to keep him on the roster or offer him back to New York. He hit .278 with two homers last season.
Chris O’Grady-LHP-age 25- Another Rule 5 selection, O’Grady is 6-foot-4 and 225 pounds. He worked in relief in the Angels organization. If he sticks on the roster he will add a left-handed component to the Reds bullpen.
Yorman Rodriguez-OF-age 23. Rodriguez got a brief look last year. He hit two homers in only 27 at-bats. I think his home park is built for his right-handed swing and he could offer the club some much needed outfield pop. He may get an opportunity.
Jose’ Peraza-2B-age 21- I admit I can’t wait to see the combination of Billy Hamilton and Peraza at the top of the lineup. Peraza can flat-ot fly. Like Hamilton, he will have to get on base to realize his supreme value. Speed kills and he has it.
Jesse Winker-OF-age 22- It may not quite be the time for Winker yet, but I think the Reds have nothing to lose by playing this very good left-handed hitting outfielder either in a platoon or regular situation. He has a sweet stroke and has some pop.
Scott Schebler-OF-age 25- Schebler came over from the Dodgers. He can put the ball of out the park from the left-handed batter’s box and has some real value in a rebuilding Reds organization.
Kyle Waldrop-OF-age 24- Like Rodriguez, Winker and Scheduler, Waldrop offers the Reds real and viable solutions to their outfield issues. A left-handed hitter, Waldrop should be in the hunt for a role on the big league club.
Robert Stephenson-RHSP-age 22- A bit of self disclosure here. While there has always been buzz about Stephenson being a potential ace, I don’t see it. I think he can be a rotation starter, but more at the back end than front. The jury remains out on him.
Tim Melville-RHP-age 26- The clock is ticking on the big 6-foot-4 inch Melville. He was drafted by the Royals and is now a part of the Reds organizational pitching depth.
Matt Magill-RHP-age 26- Magill came from the Dodgers. He, like Melville may be given a chance to crack a spot on the pitching roster with a good spring.
Tim Adleman-RHP-age 28- See Melville and Magill. Adleman will be in Spring Training and can open some eyes.
Caleb Cotham-RHP-age 28- Yet another right-handed pitching hopeful with a chance to help on the mound at some point during the long season.
John Lamb-LHP-age 25- The tall, think former Kansas City Royals prospect will really have a good chance to pitch with the Reds. If he can command his pitches, he has the motivation to use his four-seam fastball to retire hitters without flash and pizzaz.
Ramon Cabrera-C-age 26- Catching is a position of depth with the Reds. The stocky Cabrera has lots of competition, but the fact he is a switch-hitter may help.
Orlando Arcia-SS-age 21- Arcia is among the best defensive shortstop prospects in the game IMO. He is a wizard with the glove. Excellent range, quick feet, soft hands and a fine arm are on display daily. Will he hit enough against quality pitching? I think the Brewers are in a position to let him play. I look for a mid-season call for him.
Colin Walsh-2B-age 26- Walsh was a Rule 5 selection from Oakland. I don’t know if he can stick all year, but the Brewers have a need for depth, and he has a history of being able to get on base.
Zack Jones-RHP-age 25- Jones was a Rule 4 selection from the Minnesota Twins. It may be a reach, but Jones will certainly get his chance to stick with the club out of Spring Training. But don’t the Twins always need pitching? They didn’t protect him. Hm.
Zach Davies-RHSP-age 22- Davies has a legitimate chance to claim a spot in the Brewers rotation. If he has a strong spring he can be a guy that can build up his arm strength and give the team some innings as a back end starter.
Andy Wilkins-1B- age 27- The Brewers are always looking for first baseman. Left-handed hitting Wilkins’ contract has been sitting on the desks of the White Sox, Blue Jays, Dodgers, Orioles, Mariners, Rangers and now the Brewers. All since he signed with the White Sox in 2010. Is this a place he will get his chance?
Yadiel Rivera-2B/SS-age 23- He should be able to provide some organizational infield depth for the club. Doesn’t have the ceiling or tools of Arcia, but can play.
Keon Broxton-OF-age 25- Broxton is a speedy right-handed hitting outfielder with a bit of pop. If he gets his chance, his value will be his good defense and running ability.
Garin Cecchini-INF/OF-age 24- A very tough year at the plate in the Red Sox system and that club’s organizational depth made him available. Now he has new life with the Brewers. But there is plenty of competition in Milwaukee as well.
Jorge Lopez-RHSP-age 23- Lopez is a legitimate top flight pitching prospect who may be able to help by mid-season. The Brewers need rotation help, and he may be ready to offer that assistance.
Adrian Houser-RHSP-age 22- Houser is a big, strong righty with an imposing profile on the mound. I saw lots of him in the Arizona Fall League. If he isn’t quite ready to start the season with the parent club, I think he’ll be there by mid-year. Bulldog presence.
Tyler Cravy-RHSP-age 26- Cravy could be ready for an extended look. If nothing else, he is another organizational arm waiting for a mid-year call.
Tyler Wagner-RHSP-age 25- Wagner completes a group of pitchers that could be called upon during the season.
Josh Hader-RHSP- age 21. Hader is different than the pitchers I listed above. He came over from Houston in a mid-season trade. He has electric stuff and I think he can be a force in the bullpen, if not as a starter. I think he has what it takes to be a huge success on the mound. I hope he gets a chance to strut his stuff. He’s got to command his pitches-but if he does, watch out!
Alen Hanson-2B-age 23- Hanson can play both middle-infield positions. I think his time has come. The switch-hitter could win a starting role until Jung-ho Kang returns.
I am not as bullish on Hanson as many scouts.
Jake Goebbert-OF/1B- age 28- Goebbert could win a role on the bench due to his versatility. He was signed as a free agent from San Diego.
Elias Diaz-C-age 25- Now here’s a guy I really, really like. He has a gun for an arm and his offense has been improving. He could win a back-up role or be called upon to fill-in. He has a bright future and will make a name for himself at some point.
Josh Bell-1B-age 23- A switch-hitter, Bell is making strides at first base. Not known for power, Bell will have to show he can stand in against top quality pitching. I’m not as sold on him yet, but he has some tools and is still young.
Max Moroff-2B/SS/3B- age 22- A good year at Altoona may give Moroff an extra look this spring. If he continues his fine hitting in development, he may get a late call to the parent club. But he put himself on the map with a .293 Double-A season.
Gift Ngoepe-2B/SS-age 26- A good defender with speed, can he hit?
Antoan Richardson-OF-age 32- A switch-hitter, he has an invite to Spring Training. He came over as a free agent from Texas.
Tyler Glasnow-RHSP-age 22- The cream of the crop in the Pirates organization, Glasnow may get a mid-season look to bolster the pitching. The big guy is 6-foot-8 but and 225 pounds. When he pitches downhill and repeats his delivery, he’s very tough.
Jameson Taillon-RHSP-age 24- The other half of the “twin pitching towers” is 6-foot-5 inch Taillon. He and Glasnow could form a very good one-two punch at some point. It may not be in 2016, but they both have the tools to shine.
Trey Haley-RHRP-age 25- When I saw Haley pitch, he was a dominant back end of the bullpen type guy. The Pirates got him from Cleveland, and I hope they give him a chance. He has a power arm but he needs to keep his control in check. Sleeper.
John Holdzkom-RHRP-age 28- He still has rookie eligibility, but he has to be able to command his pitches better. I’ve always liked his arm and I think he can be very useful in the pen-provided he can become more consistent.
ST. LOUIS CARDINALS
Matt Bowman-RHSP-age 24- Bowman was a Rule 5 selection from the New York Mets. Maybe the Cards are hoping some of the Mets pitching magic will rub off. I don’t see a spot for him in the rotation, but they have to keep him on the roster all season or offer him back to the Mets. I see a deal coming with NY to keep him in St. Louis.
Seeing-hwan Oh-RHRP-age 33- The Cardinals signed him from Japan to assume a role in middle relief on the big league club.
Michael Oilman-C-age 25- He was acquired from Baltimore and has a chance to serve the organization as right-handed hitting catching depth.
Dean Anna-2B/SS-age 29- Anna is a left-handed hitter who came to St. Louis from the Pirates organization.
Jacob Wilson-2B/3B-age 25- Wilson provides infield depth as a right-handed hitter. He is a non-roster player but was invited to Spring Training.
Patrick Wisdom-3B/1B-age 24- Wisdom played in the Arizona Fall League and could serve the Cardinals as corner infield depth. He’s a right-handed hitter.
Aledmys Diaz-2B/3B/SS-age 25- Another Arizona Fall League player. I liked him more than most of my scout colleagues because I saw some quick bat speed, a good hit tool and solid defense. He’s from Cuba and I think he’ll be given a look by the brass.
Charlie Tilson-OF-age 23- Still another Arizona Fall League alum. I must admit I wasn’t as enthused about him, but his left-handed bat could prove helpful to the club.
Jayson Aquino-LHSP-age 23- He came over on waivers from Cleveland and provides an organizational southpaw that could help at some point. Maybe not yet though.
Sam Tuivailala-RHRP-age 23-He may be ready for a role in the bullpen at some point later in the season.
Thanks for following me on twitter @BerniePleskoff.
This series continues next Monday and Tuesday (February 1 and 2) as I go over the American League West and finally, the National League West.
That’s it. I’m done. For now.
The leap from playing Minor League baseball to graduating to the big leagues is much more difficult than some may realize. The gap between Minor League and Major League baseball is a wide as the Grand Canyon. The basic reason is pitching. Instead of seeing one or two good pitchers a week, hitters face multiple pitchers every day in the big leagues. The pitchers have confidence. And complete repertoires that include wicked breaking balls. And yes, it is still the breaking balls that spell the difference between success and a lack of success for both pitchers and position players.
Today, in my third edition profiling players I think will graduate to the Major Leagues this year, I look at the American League Central. I may miss a few, but that has to be expected. Players with rookie status remaining or international free agents are listed.
CHICAGO WHITE SOX
Tim Anderson-SS-age 22- He may only be 22, but the right-handed hitting Anderson has the potential to play shortstop at some point this season. Once he emerges, I think he will be around a long time. He still has some ragged edges on defense, but his bat and his speed play very well. Not yet on the 40-man roster, I think Anderson has a chance to play himself on to the club with a big Minor League first half.
Jacob May-OF-age 24- May isn’t on the 40-man yet either, but the fact he is a switch-hitting outfielder with excellent speed who is capable of stealing bases figure in his favor. However, he may need another year of development before he is promoted.
Daniel Fields-OF-age 25- Fields came over from the Dodgers on waivers. The left-handed hitter has a marginal shot to help as an extra outfielder type. He’s already on the 40-man roster.
Will Lamb-LRP-age 25- Lamb was acquired from the Rangers. He can serve as a lefty out of the bullpen at some point in the season. He’ll be a phone call away.
Jason Coats-OF-age 25- Coats is a non-roster Spring Training invitee. He is a right-handed hitter with a bit of pop.
Matt Davidson-3B-age 24- It seems Davidson has been around forever. He was highly touted by the Dbacks but traded to Chicago in 2013. The right-handed hitter still has a chance to make some noise, but the clock is beginning to run a little quicker.
Kevan Smith-C-age 27- He would be a long shot to leap over Rob Brantley as the third catcher waiting in the wings. Brantley is younger and is a left-handed hitter. But?
Chris Beck-RHSP-age 25-Beck offers the club organizational right-handed starting pitching depth.
Zach Phillips-LHRP-age 29- Phillips is an organizational lefty capable of offering bullpen help at some point in the season. He is on the 40-man roster.
Jesus Aguilar-1B-age 25- It’s hard to believe Aguilar has not had extensive opportunity to use his first base power. He still has rookie status and now may be thwarted by the arrival of Mike Napoli. I wonder what he would do with consistent playing time?
Tyler Naquin-OF-age 24- The left-handed hitter may get his chance at some point this season. The team needs outfielders that can drive in runs. I’m not sure that’s him, but he’ll be given the chance. He could arrive late in the season.
Bradley Zimmer-OF-age 23- An injury kept him from playing in the Arizona Fall League and that cost him some development time against quality pitching. However, he has all the tools to help the Tribe in the outfield. A left-handed hitter, once he gets back to complete health and puts numbers on the board we may see him in Cleveland.
James Ramsey-OF-age 26- Ramsey has always intrigued me. Even when he was with the Cardinals. He’s a guy that has to play every day to hone his skills. I’m not sure that’s in the plans for this year, but I like the left-handed hitter’s profile.
Shawn Armstrong-RHRP-age 25- I’m not sure the Indians are as bullish on Armstrong as I am. I love his big arm, his composure and his ability to miss bats. At some point soon I think he will pitch at the back end of the bullpen. I think he has closer potential. I look for him to start the season in the Tribe’s bullpen out of Spring Training.
Ryan Merritt-LHSP-age- Along with T J House, Merritt provides the Indians with left-handed organizational starting pitching depth. He is capable but likely needs more development time. But he is emerging and can’t be neglected.
Steven Moya-OF-age 24- Moya has the ingredients to be an impact hitter in the big leagues. Tall and thin at 6-foot-7, 260 pounds, the left-handed hitter can smoke pitches down in the zone. The problem? He strikes out way too much and has to learn to recognize pitches and be more disciplined. In time, he will improve his contact rate and be able to handle breaking balls. I like his future. Maybe he arrives late in 2016.
Dixon Machado-SS-age 23- We could see Machado late in the year. He is an excellent defender and will really help the Tigers pitchers if his glove is needed at some point.
He has good speed, a good arm and excellent range. His bat is an issue.
Montreal Robertson-RHRP-age 25- An organizational reliever that could be called upon at some point. He pitched well in the Fall League and has five years of experience at the Minor League level.
Dean Green-1B-age 26- Green offers organizational depth as a left-handed hitting first baseman.
Jose Valdez-RHRP-age 25- Valdez is on the 40-man roster and could serve nicely as an insurance policy for the relief corps.
Michael Fulmer-RHSP-age 22- Will we see the man most people feel is the Tigers top prospect at some point this year? I’m not so sure. If the team is in the heat of a pennant chase, a late season graduation may not be in the cards. If the staring pitching holds up, he will benefit much more by another season of development. But Fulmer is part of the future. A big part. I list him here because it is possible that we’ll see him in 2016. But frankly, I doubt it. The wait will be worth it.
KANSAS CITY ROYALS
Raymond Fuentes-OF-age 25- Fuentes was once considered a high level prospect. I think he will add to the Royals bench as a left-handed hitter with speed and some power. If given a sustained chance, he can really help. But I think he’ll be more of a 4th or 5th outfield type with the big league club.
Scott Alexander-LHRP-age 26- Alexander could win a spot in the Royals pen as a left-handed specialist.
Ramon Torres-2B/3B/SS- the switch-hitting Torres played well in the Arizona Fall League and provides some organizational infield depth. His versatility helps as he will be available if needed to bolster the infield at some point.
Cheslor Cuthbert-1B/3B-age 23- Cuthbert is on the fringe and would need an organizational melt down at the corners to see regular season playing time. He may get a September look, but he doesn’t bring much power.
Brett Eibner-OF-age 27- He had a nice year at the plate at Triple-A this past season and may be ready for a bigger challenge. A right-handed hitter, Eibner hit 18 homers and drove in 81 at Omaha. Those stats are worth taking a good long look this spring.
Bubba Starling-OF-23- I commend Starling for the dramatic positive change I saw in his offense this past fall. He is much more selective at the plate, drives the ball well and is figuring out how to hit pitching. This may not be his time, but he has a future as a big league player. Maybe another year of seasoning will finish his development.
Jose Martinez-OF/1B-age 27- Martinez came to the club from Atlanta. In 2015 at Omaha he hit .384/10/60 in 396 plate appearances. He struck out only 55 times. He played in Mexico this winter and hit .322. Is he for real? If I’m the Royals, I try to find out if the Braves made a mistake and if those numbers mean he’s the real deal.
Miguel Almonte-RHSP-age 22- He has a good arm and has had a taste of pitching in the Royals bullpen. He could be a useful late season call-up.
Kyle Zimmer-RHSP-age 24- If Zimmer is fully recovered from shoulder issues, he can really help the Royals rotation depth. Can he stay healthy? That’s the issue. I like what I’ve seen of him, but he has to prove he can stay on the mound and command pitches.
Brian Flynn-RHP-age 25- Flynn came over in a trade with the Marlins. He can serve as either a starter or reliever if needed during the season.
Christian Binford-RHSP-age 22- This is a guy I’ve seen throw really, really well. I would say he’s probably a year a way from a sustained role, but he’s someone to keep an eye on. He can pitch IMO.
Sam Selman-LHRP-age 25- Selman is on the 40-man roster and could prove in Spring Training that he can be trusted with a situational role in the bullpen.
Balbino Fuenmayor-1B-age 26- No discussion of Royals prospects can be complete without mentioning the jumbo Fuenmayor. He’s out with a torn ACL, but the man has some power, has strength in his forearms and legs and has a great name.
Byron Buxton-OF-age 22- The injury bug has plagued him so far in his career. He still has rookie status remaining. If he can stay healthy, Buxton could put up huge numbers. He is scary fast, has power, plays great defense and will hit for average.
There is so much to like. But he has to prove he can stay on the field.
Byung-ho-Park-1B/DH age 29- Park was a big bopper in Korea and could be a force in the Twins lineup. Look for him to DH with Joe Mauer playing more at first. But if he lives up to his reputation, the Twins lineup will be longer and tougher to handle.
Jose Berrios-RHSP- age 21- With shaky starting pitching, the Twins can certainly use any boost Berrios can offer. He is likely ready for graduation, as he has compiled 440 career Minor League innings over parts of four seasons. He finished 2015 with a good performance at Triple-A Rochester. It really is time for him to get a shot.
Jorge Polanco-SS-age 22- Polanco has a nice bat and should be ready to claim a utility role or serve as an early infield call. He’s had a taste of big league baseball, but he’s ready for more.
Wilfredo Tovar-2B/SS-age 24- He was a free agent signed out of the Mets organization. He has a Spring Training invitation.
Heifer Meneses-2B.3B.SS-age 24- He was a free agent signed out of the Red Sox organization and has been invited to Spring Training.
Max Kepler-OF-age 23- Kepler is a good line-drive hitter. I’ve seen lots of him in the Arizona Fall League. I think his power and plate discipline are emerging. I’d keep an eye on him, because he could surprise at some point. Hustles and plays hard.
Alex Meyer-RHP-age 26- We’ve been waiting for Meyer to catch on and pitch like scouts had projected. He’s huge at 6-foot-9 and 225 pounds. I’m not very bullish on him, but maybe he can thrive in relief if not in the rotation. Command issues have caused me to question his original high ratings.
Taylor Rogers-LHRP-age 25- Could be considered at some point to help out of the bullpen as a left-handed specialist.
Pat Dean-LHRP-age 26- Is in a similar situation as Rogers. He will provide organizational bullpen depth from the left side.
Tomorrow: National League Central
I hope you will follow me on twitter @BerniePleskoff. I always appreciate your comments and questions and I try to answer every question or comment I receive.
Thanks for following me and for reading BERNIE’S BASEBALL WORLD.
That’s it. I’m done. For now.
In my previous post I spoke of some possible changes in the Collective Bargaining Agreement. Negotiations should begin soon. Commissioner Manfred has now indicated that the potential for expanding the designated hitter to the National League may not be as imminent as we may have thought.
Spring Training is a time for players to hone their conditioning and for player evaluations to take place. For the front offices, it is the time to construct the roster that will begin the Major League Championship Season.
Today I take a look at those prospects from National League East teams I feel will make it to the big league club at some point in the 2016 season. There are no guarantees, and of course, I may miss some. All players listed have rookie eligibility.
A brief note here: The Braves have done a tremendous job of collecting pitching. Every trade seemed to focus on building pitching for the future. Some of the arms may be ready now, but 2017 and 2018 will be an awesome time for Atlanta pitching.
Aaron Blair-RHSP-age 23- I see this as the “one that got away” from the Arizona Diamondbacks. He has terrific command and control and huge upside IMO. I think we’ll see him pitching for the parent club at some point in 2016.
Evan Rutckyj-RHP-age 24 at the end of this month. A Rule 5 acquisition from the Yankees, if he sticks he will add a left-handed reliever to the Braves pen. He’s from Canada. Another Rule 5 pitcher, RH Dan Winkler (Rockies) has exceeded rookie status.
Mallex Smith-OF-age 22- Left-handed hitting Smith came over from the Padres in trade and may get a call later in the season.
Hector Olivera-LF/3B- age 30- After a trade with the Dodgers, Olivera certainly must figure in the Braves plans. From Cuba, he was highly touted and should see big league action at some point in the season—maybe sooner than later.
Tyrell Jenkins-RHSP-age 23- Big and strong, I saw lots of Jenkins in the Arizona Fall League when he was still with the St. Louis Cardinals. He adds depth as an emergency or spot starter if needed.
Lucas Sims-RHSP-age 21- I’m not sure we’ll see him yet, but Sims gives the club yet another potential arm to deploy if needed. He has good stuff and the poise to win.
Rio Ruiz-3B- age 21- He’s likely not ready yet, but Ruiz is a left-handed hitting third baseman with some power. That’s attractive. Traded from the Astros, if he has a good first Minor League half, it wouldn’t surprise if he gets a big league look at some point.
Chris Ellis-RHP-age 23- A long shot to stick because of the great Braves pitching depth, Ellis may not be ready yet for the big stage. He can start or relieve.
Daniel Castro-2B/SS/3B- age 23- Castro may get a look as a utility infielder due to his versatility. A right-handed hitter, he has some pop and could help as infield depth.
The future: Ps Sean Newcomb, Touki Toussaint, Kolby Allard, Max Fried, John Gant, etc.
INF Dansby Swanson, Ozhaino Albies, just to name a couple. Yikes!
Kyle Barraclough-RHRP-age 25- He could play an important role as a mid-inning reliever from the right side.
Tomas Telis-C- age 24- A converted shortstop, the switch-hitting catcher gives the club some depth behind the plate. May see some playing time with the parent club.
Xavier Scruggs-1B- age 28- He never made it with the Cardinals, but the right-handed hitter plays a position of need in the game. Adds depth and could help.
Brady Shoemaker-1B/OF- age 28- Also offers depth at first base
Dan Black-1B- age 28- The third in the trio of Minor League first basemen that could see action. Black is a switch-hitter which may strengthen his case.
Austin Nola-SS-age 26- A right-handed hitter, he offers infield depth.
Nick Wittgren-RHRP-age 24- I saw him pitch in the Arizona Fall League and I really liked his stuff as a closer. I think he can translate good command and stuff to the big league bullpen. All he needs is the opportunity.
Austin Brice- RHSP- age 23- Big right-handed starter with a very good fastball. Has to refine the rest of his repertoire. Has a chance to help if called upon.
Nefi Ogando- RHP-age 26- He has a tremendous fastball, but like Brice, he has to refine his secondary pitches. If he does that, he can be a force in the bullpen.
Kendry Flores- RHSP- age 24- A control pitcher, he has a chance to be a back end of the rotation starter.
Brian Ellington- RHSP-age 25- Another big starting pitching option from among a host of Minor League pitchers. He will be available if needed down the road.
Tim Berry-LHSP-age 24- Among all the right-handed pitching depth is lefty Tim Berry. He came over from Baltimore on waivers and could find a home with the Marlins.
Steven Matz-LHSP- age 24- The injury bug caught him last season, but he has rookie status remaining. A terrific starter, he will compliment the outstanding Mets rotation with poise, deception, repertoire, command, control and moxie. A winner!
Ty Kelly-OF/3B/2B-age 27- He’s been around with a few clubs, but the switch-hitting Kelly may be offer help due to his versatility.
T J Rivera-2B,#B, SS-age 27- Rivera has hit well in his Minor League career. He offers infield depth with a nice right-handed bat.
Brandon Nimmo-OF-age 22- Nimmo is a left-handed hitter without much home run power. He does have the ability to make contact and hit the gaps. Plays CF well.
Darrel Ceciliani-OF-age 25- A left-handed hitter like Nimmo, Ceciliani plays left field and offers the team a nice outfield option if needed.
Gavin Cecchini-SS-age 22- Still very young, Cecchini has reached Double-A and may get a late call to bring some help to the shortstop position.
Andrew Barbosa-LHP-age 28- Signed as a free agent, a team can’t have enough left-handed pitching in the organization. He would be helpful in an emergency.
Gabriel Ynoa-RHSP-age 22- Ynoa is among the Mets pitchers that offer spot starting assistance. He has a solid fastball with a good complimentary repertoire.
Dario Alvarez-LHRP-age 27- Alvarez is a nice option to work out of the bullpen. He has tasted the big leagues, but has rookie eligibility remaining.
Tyler Goeddel-OF/3B-age 23- He is a Rule 5 selection from Tampa Bay and will have to stick all year as a bench player if the Phillies intend to keep him long term.
Daniel Stumpf-LHRP-age 25- A Rule 5 selection from Kansas City, Strumpf figures to win a spot as a middle reliever.
Jorge Alfaro-C-age 22-A huge acquisition for the Phillies from the Rangers in trade, Alfaro can really hit. He has a chance to be the team’s catcher for years to come.
I think he’ll get his first call to the parent club later this season.
Brock Stasi-1B-age 26. The left-handed hitter was invited to Spring Training, but I think he is a long-shot.
Darnell Sweeney-2B/OF-age 24- The switch-hitting Sweeney came over from the Dodgers in August and may offer the club a nice fill-in player at times.
J.P. Crawford-SS-age 21- I’m not sure this is the year we see Crawford, but he is the heir apparent at shortstop. When I saw him in the Arizona Fall League he lacked energy and didn’t play with enthusiasm at all. But he has talent.
Roman Quinn-OF-age 22- We may see the switch-hitting Quinn as early as this year. Still very young, the Phillies need offense and he may be able to help.
Nick Williams-OF-age 22- Like Quinn, Williams may offer some outfield help. He hits from the left side and has some pop. He has to find more consistency.
Mark Appel-RHSP-age 24- Who is the real Mark Appel? He has good stuff, but he hasn’t put it all together yet. Maybe a change of scenery from Houston will help.
Once he gets in rhythm he can be a steady performer.
Jake Thompson-RHSP-age 21-At this young age he has been traded from Detroit to Texas and now to Philadelphia. I like his potential as a big, strong right-handed starter. Once he refines his repertoire more I think he’ll find a permanent home.
Zach Eflin-RHSP-age 21- Another trade acquisition, this time from the Dodgers, Eflin has a chance to help the pitching staff as a starter. Not the same upside as Appel and Thompson IMO.
Alec Asher-RHSP-age 24-Asher is pretty far advanced and has pitched for the Phillies. He has rookie eligibility remaining and could figure in as a starter this year at some point.
Trea Turner-SS-age 22- The speedster came from San Diego in a trade and is poised to battle for the starting shortstop position. He can fly. If he gets on base regularly and can cover enough ground, he could retain the position for years to come.
Chris Bostick-2B/SS-age 22- Bostick came over from Texas in a trade. The right-handed hitter could be a fill-in type player at some point.
Wilmer Difo-2B/SS-age 23- The switch-hitter may arrive late in the season if needed.
Brian Goodwin-OF-age 25- A left-handed hitter, Goodwin has scuffled a bit at higher levels. He hit well in Venezuela this winter. He will remain outfield depth for the club.
A J Cole-RHSP-age 24-He may be a year away, but the highly regarded starter will be available if the club feels his development is complete.
Lucas Giolito-RHSP-age 21- I really questioned myself about including him on this list. I think the Nationals have to be very careful with his arm. He’s the highest ranking right-handed pitcher on my top prospect list, and I think the club may do well to wait a bit in 2016 or even until 2017 for his debut. That said, his arrival this year is a distinct possibility. The big righty is a big part of the Nationals future. The Nationals rotation is strong as is, but if Giolito is on board, it becomes even stronger.
Tomorrow: American League Central
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I begin the New Year with my annual review of players I believe are “graduating” and are close to making the Major League club. Some have greater impact than others. Of course, I may miss a few.
I am including players with rookie status remaining and those players new to Major League baseball as international free agents.
First, a couple of general thoughts as I begin this series:
I am among those who believe the next Collective Bargaining Agreement between the players and owners will include some drastic changes. First and foremost, I believe the momentum is great enough for the National League to transition to the designated hitter. It is a drastic change, but one that teams like the Chicago Cubs and Arizona Diamondbacks will welcome with open arms. Players like Kyle Schwarber and Yasmany Tomas are picture perfect for that role.
I believe we will see revenue sharing of some sort to even the playing field between the markets that choose to spend and those that don’t.
I think there will be some support for shortening the season back to 154 games and finding some manner to make up the financial difference for 8 lost games. However, the media money now flowing to most teams has done a good job of adding revenue to the bottom lines for many clubs. How they choose to spend that revenue is an individual team decision.
The Basic Agreement between players and owners will have an impact on how rosters are constructed in the future. With that in mind, the graduation dates and time spent in Minor League development for players may change as well.
For this year, here are players I see ready to graduate to big league rosters at some point in the year. That could mean early, mid-year or late. But they should be there.
Dylan Bundy-RHP-age 23. A cloud hangs over Bundy due to health issues. Is he ready to assume a role in the rotation and realize his potential? I saw him pitch briefly in the Arizona Fall League before he was shut down with forearm stiffness. If healthy, he can earn a spot in the rotation by throwing strikes and commanding his fastball.
Joey Rickard- OF-age 24- A Rule 5 selection from Tampa Bay, Rickard may stick for the year as a 4th outfielder. A right-handed hitter, he hit well at both Double-A Montgomery and Triple-A Durham last season. Not much power at all. Speed though.
Christian Walker-1B-age 24. The right-handed hitter could see some time in mid-season or later. He provides first base depth. He has a bit of power to help out.
Mike Wright-RHSP- age 26. He could help either as a spot starter or in relief. Has a nice repertoire but inconsistency has been an issue.
Francisco Pena-C-age 26- Acquired from Kansas City, Pena may claim a role as a backup catcher for either Matt Weiters or Caleb Joseph.
Mychal Givens- RHRP- age 25- Givens should be in a middle relief role to start the season. He has the upside to work in the later innings as he develops.
Parker Bridwell-RHP-age 24- Bridwell can probably start or relieve and he would be available in the event the club has to dig deeply for mid-season pitching help.
Hyun-soo Kim-OF-age 28-The left-handed hitting Kim is targeted as an outfielder, but he can also play first base if need. Signed from Korea, he could leadoff for the club.
BOSTON RED SOX
Yoan Moncada- IF-age 20- The talented young Cuban infielder may not stick with the big league club until 2017 or even 2018. Much will depend upon how much he develops this season at multiple levels. There is a chance-albeit slight- that the 20-year old switch hitter could be on the big league roster in September.
Devin Marrero-SS/2B-age 25- It will be very difficult, if not impossible for Marrero to nudge either Xander Bogarts or Dustin Pedroia from a full-time gig. However, there is a need for backup middle infielder types, and that’s where Marrero may fit.
Sean Coyle-2B/3B-age 24- A right-handed hitter like Marrero, Coyle’s best shot will be as a utility player. He has shown some inconsistency. A long shot IMO.
Brian Johnson-LHSP-age 25- Johnson has the ability to work as a starter or reliever, but he may fit best in the rotation. He had some elbow nerve issues that set him back a bit, but he provides early reinforcement depth.
Matt Barnes-RHP-age 25- Barnes is among the pitchers that can help if needed. He can work either as a starter or reliever.
Bryce Brentz- OF- age 27- The right-handed hitting outfielder has long been in the Red Sox prospect conversation. He will have to have a sustained opportunity to show he belongs. Outfield ABs will be tough to come-by, as will DH chances.
NEW YORK YANKEES
Gary Sanchez-C- 22- It will be interesting to see if Sanchez sticks after he had a mammoth Arizona Fall League. Strong and powerful, he has improved as a defensive catcher and can become a force at the plate. I like his chances.
Rob Refsnyder-2B-age 24- Welcome to New York, Starlin Castro. And how about the presence of Dustin Ackley? Refsnyder may well find himself waiting for graduation. He can hit, but he has limited defensive versatility and that may hurt his chances to stick.
Nick Rumbelow-RHRP-age 24. He could stick as a middle reliever on a club that isn’t deep with pitching prospects. He has a solid arm and got a taste of the pen in 2015.
Lane Adams-OF-age 26- A speedster type who came from the Royals. He can provide organizational depth from the right-handed batter’s box.
Ben Gamel-OF-age 23- Gamel provides outfield depth from the left side of the plate.
Luis Cessa-RHSP- age 23- Cessa would be a long shot to make the club early in the year. Obtained in a trade with the Tigers, Cessa adds starting depth.
TAMPA BAY RAYS
Blake Snell-LHSP-age 23- I’m all in on Snell. I think he will add a great deal to the Rays pitching depth. He will have his work cut out, as the Rays pitching is their greatest strength. But he’s waiting in the wings and I think we’ll see him at some point.
Richie Shaffer-1B-3B-DH-age 24- The right-handed hitting Shaffer is versatile and has some pop. He is blocked at his best positions. But he can offer depth along the way.
Ryan Brett-2B-age 24- Brett is a scrappy type guy, but is fairly limited to playing 2B. He is a switch-hitter, but also faces competition from the likes of Ryan Franklin for utility role playing time.
Daniel Robertson- SS/3B-age 21- I’m not sure his time has come, but Robertson has shown an ability to hit. He came from the Athletics and has hit at every level. He may be at least a year away, but he may be able to help with his bat.
Dayron Varona-OF/2B.3B-age 27- From Cuba, Varona is not yet on the 40-man roster. But he’s the type of player that can play his way to the big league club. He has some pop, is versatile and adds depth.
Mikie Mahtook-OF-age 26- It’s time for Mahtook to step up and show why he was a first round draft pick. If given the chance, I think he will hit. But he needs to play regularly against quality pitching to see if he can make the grade. I think he can.
TORONTO BLUE JAYS
Joe Biagini-RHP- age 25- A Rule 5 selection from the Giants, the big righty has a chance to stick in the Blue Jays pen or as a spot starter. He has 86 Minor League starts.
A J Jimenez-C-age 25- Jimenez has played eight Minor League seasons and adds depth the the Blue Jays catching corps.
Dwight Smith, Jr.- age 23- Smith, Jr. may get lost in the shuffle with so many good outfielders emerging in the system. Soon players like Anthony Alford, DJ Davis, Dalton Pompey and Vladimir Guerrero, Jr. will be knocking on the door as well. But the left-handed Smith may help at some point in the season.
Jiovanni Mier- 2B/SS/3B- age 25- A right-handed hitter, the versatile Miller isn’t on the 40-man yet, but he’s a player that can help if needed.
Next: National League East.
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