Writing different introductions to several prospect pieces every week is hard.
For that reason, I present to you without drama my list of AL East prospects who are best positioned to impact the pennant race this year. I’ve broken this down to the three players who should have the most impact per team, as well as a few notes on some other players in each farm system as well.
This is not a ranking of my best players per organization, nor does it tell you who has the most upside long term. This is based just as much on MLB team needs as it is MiLB talent.
What this list should tell you, however, is which prospects and minor leaguers you can expect to see in box scores this spring and summer and the roles those players will find within their organizations.
As always, players must be below MLB rookie requirements to qualify. This is why Rubby De La Rosa isn’t listed, and if you ask me about him in the comments you’re a troll. (Manny Machado and Anthony Gose are omitted for the same reason)
Dylan Bundy, SP: As even casual MiLB followers will know, Bundy is the best
pitching prospect in baseball and the best prep arm to come out of the draft in quite some time. He needs another 100-or-so innings in the minors, but he dominated without using his cutter last year and performed well during a MLB cameo too. I’m not expecting him up until later in the season, but of the O’s shock the world and make the playoffs again, I bet Bundy is the one anchoring their rotation.
L.J. Hoes, OF: Hoes is an interesting prospect. Attempts to convert him to a second baseman were unsuccessful, and he doesn’t have the range to play center field on a consistent basis. He also lacks the power for a corner bat but he knows how to get on base, and players with that skill tend to stick around the league. Ultimately he’s a fourth or fifth outfielder, but he’s one that can help the Orioles this season. Given the recent injury histories of Nick Markakis and Nolan Reimold, he could be of use.
Steve Johnson, SP: Brian Matusz, Chris Tillman, Zach Britton and Jake Arietta are some of the young Orioles arms who’ve been highly touted by prospect enthusiasts in years past, yet it could be Johnson who joins Tillman in the O’s’ rotation as the season begins, as the 25-year-old keeps getting results despite modest stuff. His long-term future is as a reliever on a contending team, but he might grab 10 starts for the big league club in 2013.
Additional Notes: Kevin Gausman can be the Robin to Bundy’s Batman for a long time but he’s more relevant for 2014. Ditto for Jonathan Schoop, whose been rushed badly to this point in his career. Xavier Avery could see some MLB time this season, but he’s a fifth outfielder on a good team. Tsyuoshi Wada is technically a prospect, but he’s already 32 and has a middle reliever ceiling.
BOSTON RED SOX
Jackie Bradley Jr., OF: Have you heard anything about JBJr. lately? The media may have covered his performance and debated where he should open the season once or twice. Put my firmly in the camp that says 11 days isn’t worth a year, but it’s clear that Bradley will force the issue at some point this season, likely as early as May or June. He’s not a superstar but he’s good, and he’s doing everything he can to assure he sees at least 300 MLB PA in 2013.
Jose Iglesias, SS: While the majority of scouts and prospect analysts have long given up hope of Iglesias becoming even a passable hitter, the defensive whiz has shown signs of life at the plate this spring. Yes, Spring Training stats are largely meaningless, but you’d still rather have good ones than bad ones and Iglesias looks physical stronger this year. If he can hit .250 and get on base at a .300 clip, he’ll serve as a passable replacement for Stephen Drew.
Allen Webster, SP: De La Rosa received more press when he came over from the Dodgers last season, but Webster is better poised to help the Red Sox in 2013 and may be the better player in the long run as well. With Jon Lester, Clay Buchholz and Ryan Dempster serving as the only sure things in Boston’s rotation it’s easy to envision a scenario in which Webster is called up in June or July and never relinquishes a starting spot. He could be an anchor in the middle of Boston’s staff for a long time.
Additional Notes: Bryce Brentz is another name who could certainly see time this season, but as I’ve written before I’m not his biggest believer. Alex Wilson could get a shot in the bullpen, although it’s one of the deeper areas of the big league club. Brandon Workman could see a start or two, although many believe he’s destined for the ‘pen as well.
NEW YORK YANKEES
Mark Montgomery, RP: If David Robertson is being groomed as the logical successor to Mariano Rivera, Montgomery can be seen as the successor to Robertson. I’m rarely very high on reliever prospects but Montgomery is one of the four or five best in the game, and his slider will wipe out plenty of hitters in the majors. He could easily be ready by midseason and add a potent weapon to the Yankees bullpen.
Austin Romine, C: Once viewed as the Yankees’ backstop of the future, Romine has seen his stock fall precipitously over the past few seasons, and playing in just 49 games last year didn’t help. Most consider him more as a backup than a future starter at this point but the Yankees have arguably the worst catching combo in the league, and Romine should begin the season at Triple-A. He’s always been an adequate defender with decent natural power, so he could still carve out a big league career yet.
Adam Warren, SP: Baseball America describes Warren as “big league rotation
insurance,” and that seems pretty accurate to me. He’s not a long-term starter on a contender but he has enough talent to not embarrass you if you need to lean on him for a few games and he’s largely ready for the majors now. With Phil Hughes and Michael Pineda battling injuries and Andy Pettitte and Hiroki Kuroda pitching into their
60s, Warren could wind up with a handful of starts this year.
Additional Notes: Nik Turley and Brett Marshall are pair of potential No. 4 starters who could be MLB-ready by the time July or August roll around. Melky Mesa doesn’t profile as an everyday player but he could see time in the major league outfield should injuries continue to strike. I’ve never been a Dellin Betances believer, but perhaps this is the year he gains enough command and control to use his above-average raw stuff.
TAMPA BAY RAYS
Chris Archer, SP: I’ve long projected Archer as a reliever but after demonstrating improved command and showcasing durability as a starter last year, I believe that’s the role in which he should break into the majors. The Rays are stacked at pitching but Archer has significantly higher upside than Jeff Niemann, Alex Cobb or Roberto Hernandez and a starting spot should eventually be his. He’ll throw some clunkers when his command evades him but he’ll throw some absolute gems too.
Wil Myers, OF: Myers is among the best prospects in the entire game and is the minor leaguer poised to make the biggest impact on the AL East in 2013. The Rays will undoubtedly start him in the minors to delay his arbitration clock but I’d expect him to be in the majors within a week of that deadline expiring in June and he’ll immediately make his presence felt. Myers has legit .280/30/110 potential in his prime and is their
long-term No. 4 hitter behind Evan Longoria. Red Sox fans: brace yourselves. Myers could plague us for years.
Jake Odorizzi, SP: I must admit that I used to be higher on Odorizzi, projecting him as a potential No. 2 starter as recently as early 2012. I’ve come around to the consensus view that he’s more of a No. 3/4 option, though, thanks to his homer-prone ways and lack of plus command. The Rays have a ton of starting pitching depth but injuries always pop up, and Odorizzi is ready to pitch in the majors and pitch well there should the need arise.
Additional Notes: Former No.1 overall pick Tim Beckham should see the majors at some point in 2013, but at this point he looks like a utility guy. Hak-Ju Lee is likely the Rays’ shortstop of the future and could see time late in the season, but Yunel Escobar is a decent stopgap option. Brandon Guyer should see some at-bats if an outfielder goes down.
TORONTO BLUE JAYS
Chad Jenkins, SP: Jenkins barely qualifies for this list after throwing 32 MLB innings last season, and the former first round pick is poised to help the big league club again at some point in 2013. Jenkins won’t live up to his draft pedigree but he can serve as a swing starter or middle reliever. In a perfect world Jenkins spends most of 2013 in Double-A trying to miss a few more bats, but that’s not the kind of world we live in.
John Stilson, RP: Stilson has a history of shoulder trouble and needs to be treated as a reliever, but he should be a decent one as long as his health holds out. The Jays’ bullpen isn’t terribly impressive and Stilson will start the year in AA, making a mid-to-late season promotion to the majors a possibility. He’s not a player that can truly impact a pennant race, but the Jays’ system is pretty thin now.
Marcus Stroman, RP: One of my favorite prospects from the 2012 draft, Stroman will miss the first 50 games of the season after testing positive for a PED. His diminutive size leads many to believe his best role is in the ‘pen, and while I’d like to see him at least get a chance to start it’s likely the Jays will let him relieve as well. He could fly through the minors once active and has MLB closer upside.
Additional Notes: Sean Nolin could see some starts if the Blue Jays suffer a 2012-like rash of injuries and Jenkins falters. Nolin possesses the higher upside. A.J. Jimenez is a mildly intriguing catching prospect who should start the year in AA. Deck McGuire is a borderline non-prospect at this point, but perhaps he’ll get a shot in the bullpen and see the stuff play up (I’m reaching here).