This week I’m highlighting five prospects I expect big things from in 2014. Last January I nailed it by predicting success for Garin Cecchini, but some of the other picks (cough Jose Vinicio’s cough) weren’t so great. I’m hoping I can look back with pride on this list during next year’s offseason.
This isn’t a prediction for a breakout year, as Swihart really did that in 2013. He’s on every major top 100 prospect list this offseason. What I’m predicting is further offensive development in 2014, which would establish him as a top 25 prospect in baseball. Facing tougher competition after promotion to High A Salem in 2013, he improved in just about every measure of offensive performance (AVG, OBP, SLG, handsomeness, etc).
Scouts feel that Swihart can still add game power to his offensive performance, and if that happens he profiles as a true two way catcher with impact on both sides of the ball. I’m predicting he will hit for more power in 2014 and end the season as the top catching prospect in the minors.
I ranked Margot as the #12 prospect in the Red Sox system, but he has the talent to make that ranking look silly in only one season. He already impacted games with his speed last year, stealing 18 bases in his first 50 games in the US. His speed also shows up in centerfield, allowing him to run down balls that other players can’t reach.
He got on base at a reasonable clip for the Lowell Spinners, but didn’t show much pop in his bat. With further experience in Fall Instructionals and Spring Training, he may be ready to start 2014 with the Greenville Drive. I think his bat improves this year, and that he’s the next big thing on the prospect horizon for the Red Sox.
Johnson has been in the Red Sox system for over a year, but injuries have hampered his progress. A line drive back through the box fractured a bone in his face in 2012, ending his season abruptly. He had several nagging injuries in 2013 that limited him to 85 innings.
When he’s made it on the mound, the results have been good. He had an ERA of 2.54 with 84 strikeouts in those 85 innings in 2013. He’s a big lefty with a fastball in the low 90’s and solid secondary pitches. If he can stay healthy this year, he could move quickly up the ranks.
I’m cheating a bit here, but I feel like one of these guys will step forward in 2014, I’m just not sure which one. Both showed stretches of dominance last season, but there stuff didn’t show up from start to start. This isn’t unusual for pitchers in their first seasons of pro ball.
Both are tall right-handed pitchers with fastballs in the low 90’s, and both need to work on developing their secondary pitches. I’m predicting that at least one of the two will take a big step forward with consistent results in 2014.
5. Cody Kukuk
One stat from Kukuk’s 2013 season grabs your attention right away: he struck out over a batter per inning in over 100 innings of work. Unfortunately, he walked 81 batters in those 107 innings. Kukuk has the stuff to overpower hitters, but at times in 2013 was his own worst enemy.
He did improve after a short stint in the bullpen around midseason, limiting his walks and turning in some of his best outings the rest of the year. The Red Sox will likely give him more time to develop as a starter, but if his control doesn’t improve he could move quickly as a bullpen arm with a similar arsenal to Drake Britton.