With the major league rosters expanding to 40 and the minor league regular season officially over, here’s a look at the first annual Prospect Digest All Minor League Team. To qualify, a position player must have accumulated 350+ plate appearances, a starting pitcher needed 130+ innings, and the relievers with 30+ innings were considered.
Catcher: Michael Ohlman, Baltimore Orioles
After losing 50 games to a suspension to a “drug of abuse” in early 2012, Ohlman’s career seemed to be spiraling down the proverbial toilet. Since then, however, the 22-year-old backstop has hit a combined .308/.407/.501 including a .313/.410/.524 line in high Class A this season.
Second Team: Ryan Casteel, Colorado Rockies
Third Team: Tom Murphy, Colorado Rockies
First Base: Gregory Bird, New York Yankees
Bird, a 2011 fifth round pick out of Grandview High School, has mashed A-ball pitching this season, hitting .288/.428/.511 with 59 extra-base knocks. His total offensive production, according to Weighted Runs Created Plus, has been a whopping 70% better than the league average. Bird’s power grades out even better considering Charleston’s pitcher-friendly home ballpark.
Second Team: Ji-Man Choi, Seattle Mariners
Third Team: Max Muncy, Oakland A’s
2B: Mookie Betts, Boston Red Sox
After a disappointing showing in short-season ball in 2012 (.267/.352/.307), Betts’ entire skill set has grown by leaps and bounds this season. Across both the South Atlantic and Carolina Leagues, the 20-year-old has hit a combined .314/.417/.507 with 36 doubles, four triples, fifteen homeruns, and 38 stolen bases with impressive plate skills (14.7% BB-rate and 10.3% K-rate).
[expand Second Team: Rougned Odor, Texas Rangers]Projection Prior to 2013: A decent offensive foundation that could peak as a fringe big league regular. He shows some power, below-average walk rates, and a modicum of speed. And his numbers against fellow southpaws (.249/.307/.373) weren’t too far off his production against right-handers (.265/.321/.388).[/expand]
Third Team: Devon Travis, Detroit Tigers
3B: Miguel Sano, Minnesota Twins
Arguably the game’s elite power hitting prospect, Sano tore through high Class A by slugging .330/.424/.655 with 15 doubles, a pair of triples and 15 homeruns in 56 games. Minnesota pushed Sano up to Double-A, and as a 20-year-old against much older competition he hit .236/.344/.571 with 15 doubles, three triples, and 19 homeruns.
[expand Second Team: Garin Cecchini, Boston Red Sox] Projection Prior to 2013: Cecchini’s offensive toolkit profiles more as a center fielder, not the typical run-producing third baseman. And despite smacking just four dingers last year, the amount of doubles he hit suggests that it’s very likely that his power develops into at least solid-average, maybe even higher. He also shows a tremendous eye at the plate (11.6% BB-rate), strong contact skills, and blazing speed. I am a little concerned about his inability to handle left-handers up to this point (.241/.321/.342), so that bears watching.[/expand]
[expand Third Team: Joey Gallo, Texas Rangers] Projection Prior to 2013: Gallo’s plus-power comes with, of course, with one crater-sized caveat: his ability, or lack thereof, to make contact. He struck out a mind numbing 78 times in just 260 plate appearances, or 30% of the time. Sure, he showed an elite walk rate (18.5%), but he looks like he could develop into anything from Russell Branyan to Adam Dunn. Per the usual, I’ll hold any long term projections for recent picks until after the 2013 season.[/expand]
SS: Javier Baez, Chicago Cubs
Tied for the second most homeruns in the minor leagues with 37, Baez has hit a combined .285/.344/.583. He’s shown an improved eye at the plate, good speed, and his defense has taken a step forward since his midseason promotion to Double-A.
[expand Second Team: Xavier Bogaerts, Boston Red Sox] Projection Prior to 2013: Bogaerts is a star in the making, the heir apparent to Boston’s long sought after shortstop problems. His in-game power already grades out as above-average, with the potential to become a regular 30+ homerun threat at the big league level. And unlike many of the game’s other top offensive prospects, Bogaerts combines that power with a strong eye at the plate — he walked 8.3% of the time against much older competition — and a modest strikeout rate (19.9%). His bat will play anywhere on the field, but it has the potential to be elite at shortstop. He has the capability down the line to become a .300/.370/.520-type hitter.[/expand]
[expand Francisco Lindor, Cleveland Indians] Projection Prior to 2013: Lindor’s one of the games top young talents, and arguably the second best shortstop prospect behind Texas’ Jurickson Profar. He’s a top-of-the-order-type hitter — most likely a number two — who could ultimately end up as a .290/.350/.400, with 25+ steals, double digit homeruns and above-average defense.[/expand]
OF: George Springer, Houston Astros
A true five-tool player, Springer fell three homeruns short of the exclusive 40/40 club. Between Corpus Christi and Oklahoma City, the 23-year-old center fielder hit .303/.411/.600 with 27 doubles, four triples, 37 homeruns, and 45 stolen bases (in 53 attempts). His total production was 74% better than the league average. He also cut down his K-rate tremendously in Class AAA (24.4%).
[expand Second Team: Domingo Santana, Houston Astros] Projection Prior to 2013: Despite the fact that Lancaster tends to greatly impact offensive production, Santana impressed on the road, hitting .289/.364/.502 with above-average power (.213 ISO) and decent patience at the plate (8.7% BB-rate). It wouldn’t be surprising to see a noticeable dip in his numbers next year, but the foundation for him to become an above-average regular is certainly present. His groundball rate last season, 46%, is a bit troublesome.[/expand]
Third Team: Zachary Borenstein, Los Angeles Angels
OF: Byron Buxton, Minnesota Twins
Arguably the most exciting prospect in baseball, Buxton manhandled the Midwest League to the tune of .341/.431/.559 and continued his torrid pace with Fort Myers (.326/.415/.472). His 18 triples led all minor leaguers.
Second Team: Andrew Lambo, Pittsburgh Pirates
Third Team: Scott Schebler, Los Angeles Dodgers
OF: Joc Pederson, Los Angeles Dodgers
Pederson, 21, hit .278/.381/.497 while showing 30/30 potential. He set career bests in homeruns (22), stolen bases (31), walk rate (13.5%), and wRC+ (155). With Matt Kemp, Andre Ethier, Carl Crawford, and Yasiel Puig already manning the three outfield positions, Pederson likely won’t be staying too long with the Dodgers.
[expand Second Team: Jackie Bradley Jr., Boston Red Sox] Projection Prior to 2013: Depending how the defensive metrics take to Bradley’s game, he could develop into a solid five-tool player capable of hitting .300/.400/.440 with 30 stolen bases and 15 homeruns. He’s still a year or so away from being a legitimate contributor for the Sox, but he’s also likely to make a few All-Star games during his tenure.[/expand]
Third Team: Joey Terdoslavich, Atlanta Braves
SP (LHP): Henry Owens, Boston Red Sox
Trailed minor league leader Danny Winkler’s 175 strikeouts by just six despite throwing 22 fewer innings, Owens posted an impressive 2.67 ERA across two levels (High-A and AA) while averaging 11.27 punch outs per nine innings.
Second Team: Tim Cooney, St. Louis Cardinals
[expand Third Team: Adam Conley, Miami Marlins] Projection Prior to 2013: Conley, despite the ability to miss at bats at this point in his career, looks more like a good mid- to back-rotation-type guy. He generates a ton of groundballs (53.5% last season) and has shown solid-average control, though that’s come against age-appropriate competition.[/expand]
SP (RHP): Archie Bradley, Arizona Diamondbacks
The adjectives used to describe Bradley’s 2013 season fall somewhere between dominating and brilliant. The 20-year-old allowed just 31 earned runs in 152 innings (1.84 ERA) while striking out 162 (9.6 K/9) and walking 60 (4.1 BB/9). Easily the best pitching prospect in the game.
[expand Second Team: Yordano Ventura, Kansas City Royals] Projection Prior to 2013: The data suggests that Ventura could land in the front half of Kansas City’s rotation at some point in the future. But his frame, particularly the weight, almost guarantees that his body probably won’t handle the rigors of 30+ starts in a year. Don’t be surprised if he transitions into a dominant backend option in the pen down the road. [/expand]
[expand Third Team: Taijuan Walker, Seattle Mariners] Projection Prior to 2013: Walker, the 43rd overall pick in the 2010 draft, could probably step into a big league rotation right now and be a team’s third or fourth best starting pitcher. He solidly built — 6-foot-4 and 210 pounds — to withstand the rigors of 30+ starts in a year. And along with a power arsenal, his average command should only improve as he matures. There aren’t many legitimate aces developing in the minor leagues, but Walker’s certainly one of them.[/expand]
RP: Yimi Garcia, Los Angeles Dodgers
Owner of some impressive peripherals (12.7 K/9 and 2.1 BB/9) as well as a sparkling 1.52 Skill Independent ERA, or SIERA, Garcia also saved 19 games for Chattanooga.
Photo of Gregory Bird Courtesy of Tracy Proffitt/MiLB.com