MLB Prospects to Watch: Jurickson Profar, Bubba Starling, Xander Bogaerts

Not the first Bubba to play baseball.

Sorry we haven't been posting the team previews since Monday, but we will be back next Monday with the San Francisco Giants and get right back on schedule. In the meantime, I want to talk a little bit about some prospects.

You see the headline and you probably think to yourself, "Hey idiot, I've heard of those guys! No duh that I am supposed to watch them!" Well yeah, I know that you have probably heard of them (unless you just don't follow minor league baseball, which is fine) but I'm taking this from a different approach. Almost all of the top 100 lists are out there by now and I look up and down each list with entirely way too much intensity and always a few names will pop out at you.

For one reason or another, there are just prospects that you are really interested in seeing develop and others that you might not be as interested in. I think Mike Trout is a legit top three prospect, and I'm interested in seeing how his major league career develops, but I think we get the gist of Mike Trout by now, right?

Then there's those guys that you are really curious to see play their box scores and find out how they do in 2012. I've looked up and down the list today and just picked out three names I'm interested in watching. I'm interested in all of the Mariners prospects, so I tried to stay away from guys that I'm biased towards. (Though, in speaking as an example of the Mariners, guys like Nick Franklin and Martin Peguero are very intriguing even compared to Danny Hultzen, who I think will be up in the majors soon anyway.)

But outside of the Mariners I just looked for three names that stood out to me this morning. Next time, I'll pick some different names and also check out how these three have developed. Let's take a look, eh?

Jurickson Profar, SS, Texas Rangers, 19 years old

Trout was a major riser from 2010 to 2011, and Profar was one of the biggest jumpers last season. He was Baseball America's #74 prospect in 2011, but is #7 this season.

He is a former champion of the Little League World Series (and a runner-up the following year) before being signed by the Rangers in 2009 for a $1.55 million bonus. A whole lot of clubs wanted to sign Profar, but they wanted him only as a pitcher. Like Casey Kelly (formerly Boston, now San Diego) Profar preferred shortstop and wanted to be given a chance there, but unlike Kelly, he has turned out to be one hell of a hitter and shortstop.

Only the Rangers and Orioles were willing to sign him as a shortstop, and Profar chose the Rangers.

Texas was not trigger-shy on their assignment for the 17-year-old Profar, putting him in low-A Northwest League for Spokane where the average age is over 21. Profar responded by hitting .250/.323/.373, 4 HR, 23 RBI, 8 SB, 42 R and 19 2B in 63 games. Scouts began to drool, but wanted to see him play at a higher level.

Last season he went to the single-A Sally League and hit .286/.390/.493 with 12 HR, 65 RBI, 23 SB, 86 R, 37 2B, 8 3B and a very impressive 63/65 K/BB ratio in 516 PAs. Bryce Harper played in the same league, both 18, and though Harper put up better numbers, they weren't that much better and Harper wasn't doing it from the SS position. Profar was the Sally League MVP.

Why I'm Watching:

Well, this is the year that Profar could (and probably should) vault to being the #1 prospect in baseball. There's very little standing in the way. Though I'm always wary of teenagers, if Profar was 2-3 years older and putting up these numbers he'd still be considered a great prospect. It's because he's shown such maturity as a teenager that he's one of the best. He's only been a switch-hitter for two years, and he's already shown great ability from the left side of the plate.

Profar is also an excellent defensive player that can only get better. I don't know what's going to happen when he's ready to get to the majors if the Rangers still have Elvis Andrus and Ian Kinsler, but his name will pop up in a lot of trade rumors. Don't be surprised if he's not actually the one traded though. He's probably got more potential than anyone else on the Rangers infield.

He'll be assigned to high-A Myrtle Beach (home of Kenny Powers) and I'm excited to see if he's a rare teenager that hits AA this season with authority.

Bubba Starling, OF, Kansas City Royals, 19 years old

He's been talked about as one of the best high school athletes of this century and had a football commitment to Nebraska as the #6 QB prospect in the nation coming out of Gardner-Edgerton High School in Kansas. The Royals took him with the #5 overall pick with the belief that they could sign him though and they eventually did, giving him $7.5 million at the deadline, the largest ever given to a high school player. (Remember that Harper played some JC)

He projects as a potential 5-tool player and could jump to the top five of any prospect list if he has a great season.

Why I'm Watching:

Because he hasn't played in the minors yet and I am really curious to see what he'll do. Also because he could struggle in his first season since Starling is considered a very raw baseball prospect. Despite being the #1 baseball recruit in the nation, Starling has never focused on just one sport. Now he'll be turning his full attention to the diamond, but at this point his hitting ability is considered to be a Maserati that has not yet been put together.

He's BA's #24 prospect going into the year, but that could change dramatically one way or the other depending on how he plays this season. I do expect that he'll show some of the best ability in the minors.

Xander Bogaerts, SS/3B, Boston Red Sox, 19 years old

He is the first Xander (first name or last) to play professional baseball, apparently.

His signing was much more low key than Profar, only taking a $410k bonus from the Red Sox in August of 2009 at 16. He debuted in the Dominican Summer League in 2010 at age 17 (about 1-2 years younger than the competition) and hit .314/.396/.423 in 280 PAs with a 37/30 K/BB ratio.

What really got scouts attention though was his 2011 season in the Sally (man, that league was loaded) with a .260/.324/.509 line and 16 HR, 45 RBI, 14 2B in 296 PAs. The biggest concern however was a 71/25 K/BB ratio, much worse than what he did in 2010.

Still, ScoutingtheSally said that only Harper and Mike Stanton have shown that kind of power at that age in his three years of watching the Sally League. Our own Ray also wrote about him on MinorLeagueBall in November.

He is a SS now perhaps, but could be making the move to 3B. This shouldn't hurt his fantasy value though, as that position could use more power.

Why I'm Watching:

Because there are still holes in Bogaerts game that make him sort of a boom or bust for me. Or he may just stay right in line with where he is (currently BA's #58 prospect, though some have him much higher) but he needs to improve his plate discipline and his ability to hit breaking pitches.

Still, he has shown tremendous power and could be a 40-HR major leaguer if all breaks right. Will it? How will he adjust to a new, higher level? Will he stick at SS and for how long?

He's one guy that could be making a major leap in 2013 or take a tumble. (Or, because they are the Red Sox, get traded for an experienced star.)

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